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Focus. A key leadership skill

Posted by Julia Milner on May 24, 2018 in Blog

Focus. A key leadership skill

One of the commonest questions I am asked by leaders and managers, is “I feel overwhelmed Alex what can I do about that?” In many cases it turns out that this is linked to lack of focus. It is very rare to be able to lessen the workload but increasing the skill of focus, can sometimes reduce the perception of the workload.

Great leaders know that energy management is just as important as time management. They are great goal setters and driven to succeed but they also recognise that leadership is a long game.

In managing their energy they recognise the importance of enhancing the skill of focus. I would therefore argue that focus is one of the most fundamental things you can work on if you want to be an optimal performing leader or manager

Having said that it is way more difficult than people imagine. We are surrounded by distractions, the alerts that come in on your computer, if you wear a smart watch when it vibrates to tell you that there is a message on your phone, the phone itself lighting up, the list goes on. In essence we have built an entire world of distractions that stops us from focusing on what we really need to achieve. This means step one is managing your environment, minimising those distractions.

Allied to that learning to focus well, means understanding some of the fundamental things about our biology. You can’t multitask. Before you get all upset and claim you are a great multitasker, the science is clear here. You are not multitasking, you are serial tasking. Moving back and forward between several tasks in the moment. This is not optimal. Deep focus requires you to pay attention to one thing and do it exceptionally well.

But we are not only distracted by external stimuli. There are the internal distractions too. Your thoughts wander, you jump ahead to what is coming next or reflect back on what has occurred. Focusing at an optimal level includes practicing the skill of keeping the brain in the moment. Its a skill that comes with practice, built up slowly over time. Start with trying to stay in the moment for fifteen minutes and build from there.

Whilst these are simple steps, simple doesn’t always mean easy. If you want to be an optimal performing leader or manager working on removing external and internal distractions should be an essential part of your ongoing routine.