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FocusIt’s hard to believe in a few short weeks I’ll be celebrating 5 years as an entrepreneur.  I’ve learned a thing or two about business and myself over that time, and probably more than any time I’ve spent working for someone else!
First, time is the currency of my enterprise.  It’s an investment, and time’s return on investment is in the value I produce – whether it’s for my clients, my team, or those in my life.  It’s the one thing I can’t produce more of or earn back.  I’m gifted with the same amount of time each day, and the choices I make determine my success.

Second, I’ve learned that some days, things just flow.  I’m in the groove, I’m getting the right things done, and I’m satisfied with what I’ve produced.  Other days, I look back on the day and wonder what happened.  (I know you’re nodding in agreement!)  My energy is zapped, and I have that sinking feeling, as though I wasted an entire day.

Both of these lessons have something important in common.   Their foundation is focus.  When I’m practicing focus (and yes it’s a daily practice!), I make the most of my time and create many more productive, satisfying days.

If you’re really honest with yourself, how would you rate your ability to focus?  In today’s world, we are so pressured to multi-task.  It’s almost a badge of honor to be able to do 5 things at once!  But the end result is that we are frantically busy, but not productive – and that can wreak havoc on our careers and our path to leadership.

I’ll share with you three simple habits I’ve put into practice over the past several years that have helped me to maintain focus on the right things.  While I’m writing this through the lens of entrepreneurship, these habits also apply to you as an emerging leader.

1. I maintain and own a weekly and daily calendar.  I know that sounds so simple, almost elementary.  What I mean by maintain and own – I don’t fully turn over my calendar to my assistant, and I take full responsibility for making sure the right things are on it.  In other words, I own my time.  I own my results.

Every Friday I print out the next week, and I see the big picture of what I have on my plate.  I then color code each entry to match a category – business development, networking, client engagements, team meetings, personal, and so on – I can very easily see what percentage I’ve dedicated to each category.

At the daily level, I have a 2-page layout listing my activities and I map which activities will directly contribute to my overall goals.  Lastly, and very important – I have at least one day per week with zero appointments.

2. I live by the “big rocks” of my business.  I’m sure you’ve heard of Stephen Covey’s “Big Rocks” and putting first things first philosophy.  My “rocks” are:  business development, marketing, program development, team building, and giving back.  I try to make sure my calendar and activities reflect those big rocks most of the time.   Do you know the “rocks” of your career?  Do your activities reflect them?  If not, it’s time to make some changes.  Please know that I don’t have this perfected by any stretch, but I have gotten significantly better at it – and just some small improvements have paid big dividends.

3. “No” is a complete sentence.  This might be one of the toughest habits to put into play.  I love to take on new challenges, and I see possibility in almost all opportunities that come my way.  BUT . . . and this is a big but . . . I have also found myself completely burned out, unfulfilled, and unproductive by saying “yes” to everything that comes my way.  It sounds a little counterintuitive, but I’ve learned that saying “no” from time to time opens doors to other opportunities that truly fit my “big rocks.”    

When I’m gifted with a new opportunity, I put myself through a series of questions and I usually know right away whether or not to take on a new opportunity.  Here they are:

  1. Is it fresh, does it excite me?
  2. Does it fit with my leadership path or strategy at this time in my life?
  3. Will it help me to grow, does it challenge me?

Treat your time as a precious investment. With better focus, an understanding of your strengths and “big rocks”, and the ability to prioritize and choose how you spend your time, you will undoubtedly be more efficient and successful.

Ready to learn more?

Visit for more information about custom training solutions and professional development services offered by Impact Instruction Group.  Amy Franko works with emerging women leaders, teaching concepts from the international best-seller Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office to many national companies and organizations.

© 2011 Impact Instruction Group

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