Do you ever feel like you are just coasting through life, doing what’s easy or what you are supposed to do?
You might be busy being busy, caught up in details that don't really matter. But what if I told you that staying on this path could lead to a life full of regrets?
Author Robin Sharma said,
“Nothing will fill your heart with a greater sense of regret than lying on your deathbed knowing that you did not live your life so as to realize your dreams.”
Don’t waste your life on things that don’t matter. Run your own race, one that you can look back on with pride.
To quote Steven R. Covey,
“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”
When multiple media channels bombard me incessantly with bad news such as reports of earthquakes, a world-wide pandemic, starving people, and a bloody war in Europe, I want to immediately solve all of these problems. But I realize that’s not possible and I remember a piece of valuable advice a former boss once gave me: “Choose your battles wisely.”
In other words, learn to focus on what’s most important. Brian Tracy, the author of over 70 self-improvement books, writes,
“The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life.”
Our modern-day, frenetic lifestyles make achieving radical focus even more of a challenge. We have so many distractions. For instance, Netflix and YouTube provide hundreds of thousands of programs that are available to watch anytime.
Compare this to when I was in elementary school and we didn’t have cable TV. We had only three TV stations to watch and one of them was in another language. If something interesting was on one of those channels, great, we watched that. If not, we turned off the TV.
It was that easy.
Not anymore. Today we have more distractions than we can manage.
In this ‘10X Your Results’ series, I intend to share powerful tips to help you achieve more with less.
To start out the series, we will be looking at what you should focus on.
In our world of distractions, it is often difficult to discern what matters. During my corporate work days, I received dozens of emails every day. Were they all important? Certainly not. Most of them were trivial and yet I devoted way too much time responding to most of them rather than focusing on the few important ones. This was a waste of my time and a drain on my mental energy. Instead of concentrating on my purpose, I allowed myself to be sidetracked.
When America committed to going to the moon within seven years of Kennedy’s speech, their space engineers needed radical focus to develop all of the technology necessary for a moonshot. They didn’t have time to allow themselves to be distracted by unimportant details. Such an ambitious objective forced the engineers to dedicate their entire focus to what mattered.
Warren Buffet, the most successful investor of our time, accumulated a huge fortune by adopting an investment strategy that few others imitate. Instead of going after all the shiny, new investments available in the market, he concentrates his efforts on a few companies bearing high potential. He understands the power of radical focus. In his own words, “You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don't do too many things wrong.”
Likewise, the Apostle Paul knew what mattered. He wrote, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel.” He realized that he had only so much time available to accomplish things, so he wanted to spend that time doing the important task God had assigned to him — teaching the Good News.
Jim Collins, the famous author and business consultant, realizes the importance of radical focus, too. He says, “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.”
My future business plan used to list five priorities I wanted to accomplish in the next three years, but I found I wasn’t able to focus enough of my attention on any one of them. Heeding Collins’s advice, I redesigned my plan to include just three items.
To do this, I had to make tough choices. For instance, even though I wanted to learn the Cambodian language, Khmer, I put that on hold to focus on my three most important goals necessary for me to get my rocket off the ground. A clear vision of where I want to be in three years enabled me to discern what matters most now.
Author Brian Tracy cautions us to resist the temptation to start the day by working on trivial things. Instead, he suggests we develop the habit of beginning with high-value tasks — the ones that take us closer to our goals. That way you are working on what’s most important to you when you are at your best, earlier in the day. And make sure to continue with that task until you complete it.
“For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else.” — Robin Sharma
The Forbes Magazine calls it a Power Hack: “This rule hits the time-management trifecta: It’s simple, productive and feasible—since it’ll cost you only an hour and a half of your time.”
Be a minimalist and chase one rabbit only. Extreme achievers are minimalists. I want to do many things every day. The best is to do a few things. But the right things.
Jesus understood the importance of removing distractions from His life. He would often go off by Himself to think and pray, sometimes for prolonged periods. For example, after a busy day preaching and feeding 5,000 people, Jesus chose to spend time alone. Matthew wrote,
“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.”
Jesus chose to spend quality time with His Father in prayer rather than be distracted by the fears of his disciples who were in the boat fighting against the wind.
Like Jesus, if you want to be a successful leader, you must remove distractions fighting for your attention. These are some common distractions you may experience:
And the list goes on. Even though these may be entertaining activities, they can hinder progress on your big projects.
When Apple included a screen time summary in one of their cell phone updates, I was shocked to find out how many hours a week I spent on social media. On my commute to work, I would open a news feed at the bus stop or train station. From the news feed, I would click on an interesting video and then read yet another post.
A couple of minutes of social media here and there added up to a few hours during the week, which was the time I could have been spending doing something toward my goals. What’s more, every single time I opened an app, my attention energy account was being depleted, leaving me less and less able to focus on what was truly important. I realized what a distraction my iPhone could be.
While working in a global biotech company I had to make a tough choice to increase my focus. While Microsoft Teams allowed us to work remotely, its chat function killed my productivity.
As business strategist Greg McKeown says,
“When we surrender our ability to choose, something or someone else will step in to choose for us.”
In using the chat function, I was letting others choose for me to respond to the chat messages immediately. But then I decided to quit the app. Some colleagues didn’t like it. But my productivity surged.
It’s up to you to be intentional about fighting off the many distractions that drain your energy and keep you from accomplishing what you want to with your life.
I hope the above two tips helped you bring clarity to how being busy is such a trap. The focus should be on productivity and outcomes and not on the amount of time spent in working.
Next week, I will share another two final tips that would further get you working on changing the habit of being busy. Meanwhile, try to apply the above tips into your daily life this week.