Focus… in a world of distractions

Focus has really been… for lack of a better word… the focus lately.

It was one of the things my team felt went well in our last sprint. It has even been a topic of discussion with senior management recently.

So why is focus the focus? Why or how did we lose focus? Did we ever have focus to begin with? What changed to bring focus to attention? How do we keep our focus?

Focus is a fickle thing. We all have the things we enjoy doing, and the things we have to do. For some people, they can balance between these quite nicely. But sometimes, we set ourselves high expectations, or we have these high expectations set upon us and this affects our ability to focus.

For example, my team know the importance of the work we have on… and know that we need to get it done as soon as possible. The team want to be successful and deliver the tasks we have, however, they set high expectations on themselves and find that the end result is the opposite of being successful. They have over-allocated themselves in the sprint and therefore feel they have failed to deliver.

To make matters worse, there is an endless list of distractions, interruptions and continuing competing priorities that also don’t help us to remain focused. Challenges such as new and shiny technologies or ideas, interruptions from everywhere requiring action from us, or the fight to be at the top of your to do list, especially from those who scream the loudest!

So how do you remain focused with these in mind? I personally believe that focus requires a clear direction to be set. It requires the balls to say “No” to the things that don’t provide value to that overall direction. It requires the capability to give yourself or your team some space to work on one thing at a time and avoid the productivity lost from context switching. It is also about being realistic and accept that there will be distractions and account for them when planning yours or your team’s work. These are all the things I aim to be better at as a leader.

What has focus achieved for us? For me it has allowed me to be better at what I do and given me the energy and motivation to do more. Focus has also brought energy to my team. They are more engaged and working far better together to get through the work in front of them.

You give life to the things you give energy

This was the mantra of the instructor for a yoga class I attended recently. If we give energy to those distractions and interruptions, they will gain life and will continue to take our focus away. We must know where we want to give our energy, and ensure we only give life to those things that actually matter.

What challenges your focus? How do you keep focused?

Until next time.


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