Focus your way to success with these three tips
The fate of any CEO is that they are the ones who have to make the most significant decisions. And they need to make a lot of them.
As exhilarating as it can be to run a successful business, being the to-go person for everything can also drain your energy faster than a 10K run. Often, you can’t even prepare for it – sometimes (as you might remember from 2020), the unexpected happens, and a decision has to be made right away. Should we close the deal with this supplier or wait for a better offer from another one? Is it time to hire a new marketing director? What about the KIPs – do we need to adjust them?
Questions like these arise all the time. Giving the right answers to them is vital for your growth. How can you ensure that you are making the right decisions and not wear yourself thin in the process?
PRESERVE YOUR MENTAL ENERGY
“You’ll see I wear only grey or blue suits,” [Obama] said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Former US President Barack Obama limited his decision making when it came to such mundane things as his clothes and breakfast. He knew that we all have a limited ability for it every day. Decision making is like a muscle; the more energy we spend on deciding things that don’t move the needle, the less we will have left for important ones later in the day.
Scientists call this decision fatigue. In his bestseller, Roy Baumeister writes that we can train our decision-making muscle and gain self-control without pain – but before you put all your effort into that, wouldn’t it be easier to simplify a few things in your life? All these complex actions are distractions from truly valuable work we could be performing.
OUTSOURCE THINGS THAT DRAIN YOU
One of the first things you can do to preserve your mental energy and focus on your zone of genius is to delegate those tasks that others can do just as well if not better than you.
Many CEOs fear they will not find someone suitable to take over some of their responsibilities. This reluctance to hire hinders your ability to focus on your company’s future. A successful entrepreneur is always backed up by a great team that supports her. Finding the right people takes time, but it will reward you with more capacity and energy – well worth the investment.
We don’t want to drain our brains by making mundane decisions. We make powerful ones. And the only way we can do that is by making time for a different kind of work.
MAKE TIME FOR DEEP WORK
You might have heard this before: our brains don’t like multitasking. In a study, it took Microsoft workers, on average, 15 minutes to get back to intense mental tasks (like writing code) after they had answered an email or an instant message.
Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, explains there are two types of work: shallow work that only needs a little time and focus (like answering emails), and deep work that happens when you focus on one thing only, free of distractions.
A famous example of deep work is Bill Gates’ “think weeks”, where he would isolate himself and do nothing but read and think big thoughts. A great author can isolate herself to write a book that will impact thousands – or split her time answering emails and engaging on social media, contributing no long-term or high-value work.
Technology, networking and social media have fragmented our attention too much. As a result, we often keep busy rather than productive. As deep work becomes more scarce, it also becomes more valuable, making it the superpower of the 21st century. And there is a way to make it yours.
CREATE STRATEGIES AND SYSTEMS
The trademark of a good entrepreneur is that she has too many great ideas at once. A good strategy is like a boundary marker that defines what the company does and, more importantly, what it does not do. Ideally, a good strategy should restrict you to only doing what you do better than anyone else. A good strategy also enables you to filter every decision you make by asking: Does that propel us forward or not? Is it relevant for us right now?
Articulating a clear strategy lies at the heart of all the points I mentioned above – it will make it possible to outsource, enable you to zone in on your work and preserve your mental energy. Everything will be in its place because it’s all been planned for.
When working with clients, I always introduce them to the one-page strategy (see my article on why it is so helpful here). It frees you to break down all these plans into a simple, straightforward process. Every business needs rinse-and-repeat systems to scale and grow- the simpler they are, the more their impact will be felt. Ensure you go back to it regularly before you make a final decision about your next move.
Good decision making is essential for any business. Following the tips above will make the process more efficient and painless for you and your company. You might even find time for a real 10K run.
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