What Focus Myths are You Buying?
Week after week, business owners and executives tell me they know they need to focus. They say “I know if I was more focused I could run my business better and get better results.”
When I ask what they mean by “focusing” they usually say they should:
Measure their numbers; know their competition; and manage time better.
Too many owners and executives believe that the acts of numbers tracking, competitive analysis and time management and prioritization are acts of focus. When I help the owners or executives dive deeper, they realize these are myths.
Let’s take them one-by-one:
1- Numbers tracking. The myth is that keeping track of numbers helps you focus. Research has, in fact, shown that what gets measured gets paid attention to. You could call that focus.
I argue that this is a myth because the measures are almost always inputs.
Valuable, meaningful focus is on outcomes. How many sales take place? How much revenue is generated? Where are those sales coming from? What is being sold? Does it matter how many calls are made or how much time is spent or how many clicks come in if there is no revenue?
Numbers tracking of inputs is a focus myth. Set your sights on outcomes and focus on doing the exact right things needed to achieve those outcomes.
2- Competitive analysis. Every person responsible for business development will begin with a competitive analysis. The theory is that a company must have pretty intimate knowledge of their competition in order to generate sales and revenue. “We’re focusing on the competition so we can give you the best marketing message, content marketing, etc.”
Your buyers don’t care what you know about the competition. They only care how well you serve their needs. Your market analysis must be on the buyers. How can your company create a new category and be first in the buyers’ minds?
That is the kind of focus that makes millions of dollars.
3- Time management and prioritization. You can obsess over your calendar; answer email and phone messages at specific times; only touch everything once; be on time for meetings; set and meet deadlines—and still not be focused.
All of these tactics are about managing hours and minutes. Focus is about carefully choosing the most important outcomes and using your time to achieve them.
This week a company president apologized by saying “I wasn’t working on the urgent things.” It’s a destructive myth to believe that paying attention to what is urgent is in fact focus.
Urgent needs arise because important actions were not taken in a timely manner. Unless there’s a natural disaster, medical emergency or terrorist attack, urgent needs reflect poor attention and lack of focus.
True Focus is a Choice
If you recognize that you have bought into these myths about focus, you can choose to stop. Focus is a conscious choice. Every day, before doing anything, ask “what is the single outcome I’m working towards today? What do I need to do today to move towards or reach that outcome?”
That is focus.