When I started my first business, I was very busy. Busy serving customers and busy putting out fires. I was in heaven. But with all this busyness came a major problem—a lack of focus.
A lack of focus is an incredibly easy issue to run into and has serious implications. It prevents you from moving your business forward. A lack of focus has you caught up in the urgent, not the important.
What’s your top priority to drive the business forward?
A few weeks ago, I was having a drink with a CEO, and discussing this exact problem. He was working 60+ hours a week getting lots of stuff done but had no time to take care of the important, strategic items on his list. There was just too much to do!
I asked him, “What’s your top priority to drive the business forward?”
He knew the answer almost immediately, but then his expression changed, and he grumbled, “I don’t have time to get it done.”
I could relate. Doing the urgent feels like the right thing to do.
Many years ago, I learned a great technique for better managing my time and focus and it’s helped me find focus and grow my business.
Enter time blocking
The concept of time blocking is simple. All it takes is proactively blocking time out of your calendar to move the needle on top priorities.
Many leaders I work with have a weekly planning cycle where they figure out their priorities and block time in their calendars to make progress with each. I do the same, but I also account for ad-hoc scheduling as I make commitments. That way the important work is in my calendar and I’m less likely to over-commit.
Accountability to yourself is vital with time blocking. If you’re setting aside time for an important task and blocking it out in your calendar, that’s only the first step. The next is following through and doing the work.
Some time back, I worked with a team that identified a major flaw—their ability to focus. So, we created a daily metric around focus time (creating time blocks), and it worked. We were able to grow everyone’s focus time from one hour per day to more than four hours per day over the course of several months. Imagine what four focused hours per day would like for you and your team. Imagine the results that that would yield.
Take baby steps
When you’re completely slammed with firefighting and endless day-to-day tasks it seems impossible to make large blocks of focus time happen. Take baby steps and start small.
Book an hour, two times per week, close the door and put down the phone. Use that time to focus on the most important task that moves your business forward. Don’t answer emails, ignore the urgent and do something that truly matters.
After three weeks of practicing this as consistently as you can, increase the amount of time you block. Try three or four one-hour sessions. Getting deep into priorities requires times and little distraction. If you can, stretch those hour-long sessions into two hours. Be strategic and incremental about your time blocking.
Last year I started a habit of booking every second Friday as a focus day. I’d answer email first thing, then be offline for the rest of the day while I worked on my biggest priorities. It was really challenging at first but got easier over time. The results and sense of accomplishment drove me to continue to build on the success of this habit.
Is it time to work on your true priorities? Block time for them, hold yourself accountable and hold tight for impressive results.
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