by Jake Thompson

Focus Determines Fate

Leaders can't afford to be distracted every day. We don't control ...
Focus Determines Fate

Your focus determines your fate.

The battle for our focus is a daily one, if not a second-by-second one. Distractions run rampant all around us.

Other people vie for our attention by filling up our inbox, social media notifications tab, and stopping by our desk. For those of you reading this who are like me with ADHD or ADD, the internal game of “squirrel!” is an additional daily battle.

The bad news is that our focus will always be under attack.

The good news is that we 100% control what we give our focus to. Even if distracted, we have the ability to be intentional with how we pivot and bring our focus back to what is a priority.

We will struggle to get better results in our professional and personal lives without building a better focus. So how can we do it?


1. Cut down distractions

They’re everywhere. I know, you know it. Social media devices are programmed to suck you in (and keep you). Calendars fill up without us even realizing it. There's always something pulling at our focus, and many of the distractions we face we have zero control of. But there are a ton that impact our day-to-day that we actually do have 100% control over:

  • Turn off social media & mobile email notifications and instead set specific times during the day you’ll check them.
  • Schedule time in your calendar for “closed door” work – no one enters your office and you can actually focus on getting stuff done.
  • Block off time in your calendar for important tasks: working out, that work project, date night with a spouse. Instead of just “going through” the week, plan time for what you say matters.


2. Quit trying to multitask.

Multitasking doesn’t work. Period. As much as we want to believe we are the exception that can make it work, bouncing from project to project to project, we honestly can't. Each time we try to juggle, we end up losing our effectiveness instead of being able to bounce between projects. 

Research shows that we lose upwards of a half hour every time we get distracted and try to bounce between projects. 

Instead of trying to multitask, try the Pomodoro technique where you focus on short working "sprints." Set a timer for 20-30 minute window and focus exclusively on one task/project. When the timer sounds, take a quick break, reset, and start again on that task or a new one.

If you have 3 active projects on your plate, set time for project 1 for 30 minutes. Work solely on it. Take a short break. Then work on project 2. 

Bouncing back and forth between each isn’t actually helping you make ground on each.


3. Practice meditation

I was never someone who liked meditation. I struggled to silence my thoughts. I thought it was overrated in helping calm the mind – until I started practicing it in short 30-60 second bursts.


Anytime I felt my mind overwhelmed and struggled to concentrate on a project I needed to work on, I would push away from my desk, close my eyes, and practice clearing my mind by focusing only on my breathing for roughly a minute.

I set a timer so when the alarm went off, I could refocus on the project at hand.

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t instantaneous, but it did start to help me “reset” when my mind was overwhelmed.


4. Set daily targets

How do you eat an elephant?

The same way you do a donut – one bite a time.

Regardless of how big the goal you are chasing is, the best way to reach it is by setting tiny, daily targets to reach each day.

For example, when I wrote my first and second books, my goal was not on the entire book but on simply writing a specific number of words every day.

500-1000 words every day may seem overwhelming to you, so break it down and try writing just 200 each day. That's like a just like a longer LinkedIn post, right?

Start small. Take one step today. 

Setting small targets each day gives you a manageable target to reach that will simultaneously keep you motivated, while also continually moving you toward your goal.


5. Get your sleep

There’s only so much coffee. The better our rest is, the better our focus is. Finding a way to get 7-9 hours of solid sleep is a great way to improve your focus because it helps refresh your entire body.


6. Have a plan (use a journal)

What you don’t write down, you discount. Using a small daily planner is an effective tool in helping hone our focus onto the right tasks because we write it down and then visibly reference back to it throughout the day.

Need help finding a great starter journal? I did too, which is why we ended up creating the Win Your Next Journal, full of time-blocking marks, priority targets, and simple prompts to prime your brain to work (just like a good warmup primes your muscles to lift at the gym).

The better our focus becomes, the better our forward momentum will be.

If we train ourselves to block out distractions, then we increase our chances of doing the right work that moves us toward our goals.

If we don’t, then we find ourselves in a constant game of busy without ever getting anywhere (think hamster on a wheel).

And no leader can afford to sacrifice their time simply spinning their wheels in place.



Thank you for reading! PS - Here are 3 ways I can help you right now!

1. 🚀 Make Your Next Event Impactful Beyond Just One Day: Learn how we can partner to help your leaders & organization compete every day here.

2. 🎧 Listen to my podcast, Compete Every Day on AppleSpotify, or here.

3. 📕 Grab a copy of my first book, Compete Every Day, here.

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