Focus and discipline are admirable traits that are becoming rarer in today’s noisy and fast-paced environment. For entrepreneurs who tend to move quickly, it’s important to know what areas of opportunity require your undivided attention. Even if you’re not an entrepreneur, the ability to follow through will help you stand out amongst your peers and build a positive reputation for yourself.
I’m currently running 5 different businesses that all require varying levels of attention; and because none of them have yet scaled to the point where they are self-sustaining, I have to be hyper-selective in where I devote my time and effort. This isn’t uncommon for many of the entrepreneurs I speak with and I’ve been learning over the past couple months how some of the world’s most successful CEOs and founders manage their time through my interviews on The EnTRUEpreneurship Podcast. Here are a few themes I’ve picked up from those who seem to do it all:
1) Deduce what’s most important
Across everyone I’ve interviewed, the ones who accomplish the most acknowledge they can’t take everything on at once. They themselves focus on a select few things that are most important, and then delegate, automate, or eliminate the others.
I love the book, The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. It teaches this concept of focusing on the ONE thing, that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary. The authors use an analogy of the domino effect, where one domino is able to topple another domino 50% bigger, then 50% bigger, and so on. By the 63rd domino, you have one that stretches from the earth to the moon.
In essence, if your goals stretch from here to the moon, start small and focus on your one thing.
If you’re a salesperson whose end goal is to hit a certain quota, your one thing may be developing relationships with key strategic partners who can act as referral sources for you in the future. So instead of cold-calling prospects each and every day hoping some of them will close, you may want to focus your efforts on having an intentional in-person meeting with a potential strategic partner once per week.
2) Say No…a lot
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
― Warren Buffett
You’re always going to miss out on opportunities, especially as you advance in your career. Those who are at the top of their game know: it’s not about how many opportunities you’ve missed, it’s about the ones you get right. Because of this, they make decisions with a Yes or No (or not right now), and they do so quickly.
As I always like the say, the quicker you can make a Yes or No decision, the more opportunities come across your table.
I’ve learned to turn down opportunities often and quickly. If you’re overwhelmed with a lot of options, boil it down to your top three then choose amongst those three. They may not be 100% perfect, but rarely do you need a decision to be perfect in order to be effective.
3) Strengthen your muscle
Like a muscle, discipline gets stronger the more you use it. This year you may be focusing on three things, next year it may be four. You may be starting off at one. That’s okay! Anything is better than nothing. If you lack discipline, focus on your ONE thing and prioritize it. Then build off of it.
The reason why the successful entrepreneurs in their 50’s seem like they’re able to get a ton done is that they’ve spent 30 years strengthening their discipline muscle. They all started somewhere, and it’s never too late to begin.
There’s a lot I can share around practical steps to stay focused and discipline, but in true spirit to this blog post, let’s start with these three and implement them first. ?
If you’d like additional tools and tips from some of my learnings, leave a comment below and I’ll write a follow up with additional lessons from my interviews. Or if you’d like to hear from the entrepreneurs yourself, subscribe to The EnTRUEpreneurship Podcast and tune in.