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There is one thing that continues to stand out for me as the key to focus anytime and anywhere: be crystal clear about what matters most.
When you are feeling scattered or overwhelmed in any domain of your work or life, below are 3 questions that can help you to get focused. But, before you ask them you must choose a specific domain.
In the domain of ________________ (e.g., my team, my business, my finances, my relationship with my kids, my relationship with my business partner, etc.)
Then, ask yourself the three questions that follow.
By the way, I originally came up with these questions and used them to get myself and my family through an evacuation for a Category 5 hurricane. In that moment, with very strict time limits these questions seemed so obvious and simple.
Believe me, it’s easier to release the guilt of not getting things done when your family’s safety is on the line. Yet, as I returned to life and business as usual, I found I needed to remind myself to remain clear about what matters most in everything I do.
When you are leading others, your choice of what matters most is not just about you. It must include the others who are in that domain with you. If you are having trouble generating responses that cover all three, try first generating responses regarding what matters most for each — for you, for them and for your shared future. Then choose from among that list to narrow down to the 1–3 that are the most inclusive.
Less is more when it comes to focus!
For example, when we chose to evacuate, there were 3 things that mattered most — having a safe place to go, securing our home, and securing the things that mattered most to us. I handled the safe place, my husband handled securing our home and we worked together to secure the things that mattered most to us, with limited time and space to protect the things we had to choose. Instead of me deciding for my husband and daughter, we each agreed to choose 3 things to take and 3 things to store in a place that would be the best protected at home. We learned a lot about what was really important to each of us!
If you are leading a team that is stuck and not moving forward, you can also use this question to get your team into action.
If you are in a moment of feeling overwhelmed personally, start by asking this question for yourself and expand from there to include others and the future.
Instead of just creating another action plan (since chances are your team already has one), begin by considering what each member of the team could do next that would make the biggest difference in moving the team forward now.
The point here is NOT to identify ALL of the steps, but rather to zero in on your next step. Do this and you will ensure your next action will have impact. Taking an action that makes a difference is both calming and satisfying. Then you can choose your next action, and before you know it, you will experience momentum.
What will make the biggest difference in moving your team forward now?
Remember… clarity is power, confusion is costly. All you need to do to move forward is get clear about what’s next.
You can’t do it all. That’s why feelings of overwhelm naturally creep in at times, making it important to do this kind of exercise often. A key to answering this question for yourself, however, is to let go of the guilt along with the tasks or responsibilities you remove from your list.
Choose what not to do.
Consider this with everything you choose not to do when you are having trouble letting go: if it doesn’t really matter and it doesn’t really make a difference, why do it at all?
Discover more exercises for creating clarity and focus for yourself and your organization in my Strategy in Action™ section of Random Acts of Leadership™
Here’s to elevating your leadership and amplifying your impact one action at a time!
Susan is a Leadership Elevation Strategist who supports business professionals and their teams in breaking through to their next level of leadership and performance. Her client’s results have ranged from executive coaching clients getting their dream job or hard-won promotion to coaching a team that added $1 billion to the bottom line of their company.
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