Energy and focus matter

It’s true – I’ve been guilty of getting frustrated at a customer service rep. In the world of being a high-performer, remaining calm and getting the other persons communications would have been better. I could have spent time understanding the other person’s view. This would have been a faster approach to resolving the issue at hand and I wouldn’t have wasted energy.

When you give your energy and attention to things that aren’t getting you to your goals, you are essentially throwing these valuable assets away. On average, you have a finite and measurable amount of energy and focus at your disposal. You can spend this resource how you choose. You can of course find more energy within you and work harder, put in more focus, and pull through. The thing is that eventually, you’ll experience burnout. It’s important to use these finite assets wisely as you go through your day. When you do, you’ll find you’re much less stressed, you get a lot more done, and feel more fulfilled when you look back at the end of the day, week, month, or year.

1. It’s much more efficient to focus on the right things, than to try and pull through and muster more energy from within, all the time

Sure, it’s probably true that you can do an all-nighter and then go have back-to-back meetings the next day. The question to ask yourself is, is that really helping you to get to your goals? You may end up paying for it the following day, or a few days later, feeling drained of energy and having trouble focusing. It may take you longer to recover than to simply chip away at small things reliability, and on a consistent timeline to get to your big goals. Trying to cram everything into a super tight timeline all the time without any letup will lead to feeling constantly exhausted and you’ll crash along the way.

There will be times where you may miscalculate your schedule and not hit milestones for deliverables or unforeseeable things come up. It’s important to avoid constantly having to pull that all-nighter or rush every second of the day, putting out fires. It will eventually catch up with you. In a situation where you’ve been steadily chipping away at tasks, if something unforeseen does crop up, you’ll have the energy and focus reserves to handle it. Do your best to ration your energy and focus and spend them on the right, high priority things.

2. The benefits of solid focus and positive energy

These are two major elements that help you get stuff done throughout the day. All of the successful people I know have an incredible amount of focus on the big, important things. They remind themselves to be energetic and positive, no matter what. Focus and energy help you to get things done faster and be more productive. They are what guide and drive you.

You may not always feel excited about something. At times, you might want to quit. You may avoid doing the hard thing to get to the next step in your project, business, or career. A lack of focus might mean that you end up getting distracted and you procrastinate when you get confronted with an obstacle. People who are able to stick with the problems, stay optimistic, and solve them without getting derailed are often rewarded with success. They handle the grit of life with flying colors. They focus on what needs to be done, regardless of the bumps in the road along the way and pour their energy into solutions.

3. The impact of distraction

It can be tempting to want to check your email, call a friend, grab a coffee, or spend time going to brunch while you have other time-sensitive commitments. There’s nothing wrong with doing any of those things. However, if you’ve promised to get something done by this afternoon and to a certain level of quality and you’re distracted. You’ll end up losing track of time and spend it on small tasks that don’t contribute to what you really committed to. Deliverables and your promises to produce results will become less important and you’ll start to tell yourself that you’ll get things done “when you have time” and get around to them. This is not an intentional and focused way to go through your day.

Ultimately, other people’s perception of you and your reputation will be built on your ability to deliver. It will be based on whether you can get things done reliably, on time and every time. When you’re distracted and everything can just keep getting pushed out on your schedule, you lose power and energy. Delivering things late or being distracted is an ordinary way of operating. If you want to stand out and be successful, focus, follow through on commitments, and positive energy are essential.

4. The cost of constant switching between tasks and a lack of focus

When added up at the end of the day, it can take a considerable amount of time to go between tasks. It may feel like you’re running around all over the place, trying to get things done without being productive. Some people will switch from going between writing an article, to having a meeting, to hiring a marketing person or creating a Facebook advertisement for your product or service. If you’re up to big things, you will have a lot to deal with. That said, it takes time and effort to switch gears mentally. If you batch tasks, plan out your time, and optimize your energy and focus, you’ll be more productive throughout the day. 

Spend your focus wisely. Let’s say you have some time-consuming work to do but it’s mostly physical and not a huge drain on your mental resources. You can put that task at the end of the day when your mind might be tired but you still have the ability to do physical work. Try to match your tasks with your focus and energy levels throughout the day. If you have to do a task that is mentally draining or requires a lot of attention to detail, you may want to get it done early in the morning. Presumably, that’s the time you have the most focus. It’s important to find what works for you and notice throughout the day how your abilities to focus on change. Also, to observe and track when you have the most energy so you can plan ahead.

5. You can keep your focus longer than you think, and wherever you are

You may think that just because you’re tired or there’s a lot of distractions around that it will be impossible to focus. You might think you’ve run out of your capacity or ability to focus. You can renew your commitment to focus at anytime. If you catch yourself being tired for example, you might want to meditate and recenter yourself for a few minutes. If you’re feeling a loss of energy, make a quick coffee or tea at home or at your office and get back to work. It helps to have a coffee maker on hand so you don’t have to take time off to go somewhere to buy coffee. If you’re in a place that’s loud and distracting, you may want to leave that location altogether. Take a quick walk outside to get some fresh air if that’s helpful. 

If you can’t leave, find ways to reduce distractions. Reposition your desk or go to a conference room that isn’t being used. If you can’t leave the location, put in noise canceling earphones and listen to music without vocals or the sound of a rainforest or other nondescript audio. This can be helpful in a noisy place. You can also use earplugs anywhere you are to mute sounds. High-fidelity earplugs are a great invention or if you want to minimize sound altogether, you can use cheap regular foam earplugs. 

Focus is like a muscle that you train over time, just like you might when lifting at the gym. The important thing is to develop a habit of recentering and bringing back your focus. It’s important to catch yourself when you start to get distracted. It may be uncomfortable for you to extend your focus for long periods of time at first if you’re not used to it. With practice, it will become easier and easier. It will be more natural and automatic over time.

6. Are you focused and putting energy into the right things?

You get a certain amount of energy to spend throughout your day. You can cast a vote in every moment for how you want to spend your time. Your vote might be to waste time yelling for an hour at a customer service agent on the phone. However, they might not actually be able to help you get the resolution you want. They might have already done all they can. I would consider that an hour of wasted time and energy. Plus, you’re not being responsible in that situation. This is because you’re not working to understand that they are doing all they can. Some things are out of their control and require you to speak with someone higher up the chain of command. All of this takes away focus and energy you could be spending on other things more wisely.

Without a focus on the right things, you won’t accomplish that you set out to do. You can opt to spend your time on things that ultimately won’t contribute to your end goals – but why would you? Be honest with yourself about what you’re doing and spending time on. Is what you’re doing, something that will contribute to the outcomes that you desire? If not, what might you have to give up and get outside of your comfort zone to actually get what you want? If you’re focused on things that don’t move the needle and drain your energy, what can you change and adjust to refocus? Habits are malleable and especially so if you are willing to commit to changing your behavior. Sometimes you have to give up distractions as fun as they might seem in the moment, to keep your focus and reach your goals.

7. Are you spending your energy in an effective way?

If you’re confused about where to start, how to provide value, and where to put your focus in a way that will matter – you can always ask others. What’s the objective here? What are the most important things we want to accomplish and how are we prioritizing things? If this project or company is successful, how will we measure the level of success? How will we know we were successful?

There are consequences of only focusing on what might feel good at the moment. An example of this might be to fire back with an insult because you’re upset at someone for making a mistake at work or at home. You’ll then have to spend time and emotional energy later to apologize. You want to think wisely about how much emotional energy and focus, you put on things. This is so you don’t sink a bunch of your resources into something that you’ll regret spending time on later.

What happens if you feel like you have focus but things still aren’t working? It’s important to ask yourself, what’s missing that could change the outcomes you’re getting? What would cause things to start moving? Do you commonly get stuck at a particular point of a project, or is there something in the way? Are you afraid to share what you’re working on? What might be required for you to get that new job or start that new company? Are you focused on taking actions that move things forward instead of just thinking about the state of things?

Conclusion

Life is too short not to go after what you want and live big. With focus and energy, you can continually chip away at things to reach your goals. It may not happen overnight and that’s ok. The success of people, celebrities, companies, and founders often have a much longer backstory than is commonly talked about. All the little things you accomplish along the way are what can lead to your achievement of major milestones. 

What you choose to focus on and divert your energy into, will create your results in the world. If you choose to spend your focus and energy on the trivial things in life, you’ll end up with petty, insignificant results. The opposite is also true. You only have so many hours in the day and when your time is up at the end, you don’t get any more. Once time is lost, you will never get it back again so use it wisely and be intentional about your focus and energy. 

Don’t give these finite resources away for free or devalue them. Don’t waste them on stuff that doesn’t really matter, or stuff that doesn’t make you happy, or doesn’t contribute to the life you’re building. People will try to steal your energy and focus. You get to say if you let them take it or not.

– Matt Grigsby

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