Recently, a group of young professionals and I were talking about the importance of focus. In between beers, glasses of wine, and stories of overburdened inboxes and to-do lists, a particularly focus-challenged member of the group changed the subject. She recounted that she was visiting NYC from out of town.
"So many friends live here that I have to be super selective about who I tell that I'm coming," she said. "Otherwise, I find myself running around the city trying to see as many people as I can and not really connecting with anyone."
It was a familiar sentiment and situation. Everyone had experienced the weekend trip for work that turned into a sprint to touch base with as many friends as possible and then returning from the trip feeling exhausted and a bit resentful.
"When I set an agenda for myself and only tell a one or two friends I'm around, I can get a lot more done and feel good about the people I do see. And, anyway, everything else normally falls into place."
What she meant by "everything falling into place" is that she normally would hear about the other people she didn't see from those that she did (at least the ones she was really interested in and that were close to her friend group).
And, in taking time to go deep with a few friends, she was able to process and catch up in a meaningful way instead of stressing that the 15min power lunch or coffee wasn't quick or powerful enough.
That was it! I thought. That's the mindset we need to take in our professional lives when we give ourselves the it's time to focus pep talk. Set a limited agenda. Stick to it. And, by going deep into the areas that we tackle, free the other things to fall into place outside of our control.
Ultimately, focus is about control, trust and what makes relationships meaningful.
By choosing to focus and direct our energies to only a few areas of action, we are relinquishing control on the things we can't take on. And, that's okay. Someone else will do them, or if not, they will be there to be done once we complete whatever it is we're focused on achieving.
This takes incredible trust of oneself to determine which tasks and activities merit our sharp focus and which can wait // get tossed out completely. If we consider our professional teams, it also takes tremendous trust of ones teammates to step up and take on things as their areas of focus that we cannot.
3. Meaningful Relationships
When we focus we free up time for spontaneity, reflection, care, and thoughtfulness. Yes, some tasks or goals will demand quick action, but quick action has a different connotation than rushed or hurried action. We can think and respond quickly when we need to. No need to willfully decide to do so at all times by taking on too many things. Our most meaningful relationships reflect this richness of speed; some things are done slowly and others quickly. Take care to infuse your professional choices with the same dynamism by introducing and sticking to a focused agenda for your day, week, month, or year.
Articulating and sticking to professional focus is like visiting a city full of friends. We won't be able to see them all at once, but that doesn't mean that they won't still be there to greet us the next time we roll through town.
And, if they are gone when we return, that's okay, too. Let's let go of the need to control and trust our judgement and the judgment of those who affect our greater decision making context, i.e. our friends or our teammates. The meaning that we bring to work and life will allow us to have our cake and eat it, too. To go deep and impact broad by doing so.
Post by Chris Chavez, YNPN-NYC Board Chair, Co-Founder of Prime Produce: A Guild for 21st Century Craft. Chris invites you to follow the conversation on twitter @mr_tumnus.