“I’m so overwhelmed, I don’t even remember breathing.” We hear this a lot when talking with clients, especially when we’re discussing the option of doing something new. Often, the solution is not about getting more done; it’s about getting the right things done – and ensuring that you are. In that vein, here are my three steps for more focus on the right things.

For me, my highest clarity of focus and purpose are when I have a balance in my physical, mental and spiritual well being.

Find Balance, Find Focus

Mark Morford pointed out in his recent post “Is “work-life balance” a lie?” “Everything is life – no matter what you’re doing, where you are, who you’re with – because everything is energy, vibration, movement. You can’t separate work from life anymore than you can separate water from a river.”

The key point to take from this is you can’t short change one part of your life without impacting another. Balance is healthy. Health is necessary to be your best. And your best can be achieved when you’re physically, mentally and spiritually in shape.

Focus on the Most Important

Inference ladderWhat you think is most important may be wrong. We often hear it’s not about doing more, but doing more of the right things and stop giving our limited time to less important demands. But how often do you consider that your own opinion may be misguided.

It took me a while to admit it to myself. Once I understood my biases, it made me more open to new insights. Ed Batista’s post about the Inference Ladder reminded me to:

  • Be aware of my thinking and reasoning (reflection);
  • Make my thinking and reasoning more visible to others (advocacy);
  • Inquire into others’ thinking and reasoning (inquiry).

As the article states, “we rarely stop to question our interpretations; we automatically assume that meaning is inherent in data itself, rather than something we actively construct.” That’s a powerful message that our own thinking overwrites the facts that are in front of us. Our own experiences create the filters through which we see, and those filters may be limiting our vision.

Get Help Finding Focus

If it was hard to hear that you may not be the best person to determine what the most important thing to work on is. Don’t worry. You’re in good company.

In Paul Graham’s recent interview on This Week in Startups he stated, “The most important things for startups to do is to focus. Because there’s so many things you could be doing. One of them is the most important. You should be doing that. And not any of the others.” And that’s a core role of his and his partners at Y Combinator – helping find that focus.

This is the accelerator that launched Airbnb, Dropbox, OMGPop, Reddit, Wufoo and more. That’s several billion in valuation. Smart companies, with smart people, and they still need objective help to keep focused on the most important things.

We all need help, and it’s in our interest to seek it.

What are your tips for maintaining focus on the right things?

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