Using Your Time Effectively – Learning to Focus
In his very interesting book, The Four Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss has a chapter on time management in which he tells us to forget all about it. He asks us five questions:
- If you had a heart attack and had to work two hours per day, what would you do?
- If you have a second heart attack and had to work two hours per week, what would you do?
- If you have a gun to your head and had to stop doing 4/5ths of different time-consuming activities, what would you remove?
- What are the top three activities that I use to fill time to feel as though I’ve been productive?
- Learn to ask, “If this is the only thing I accomplished today, will I be satisfied with my day?”
While Ferriss may not have a lot of respect for time management, he has a great deal of respect for focus. All five of his questions are attempting to get his readers to focus on the important things and minimize or throw out completely the unimportant things. Can you answer these questions for yourself?
Ferriss also talks about the 80/20 rule – you’re probably aware of it – which says that 80% of the output result from 20% of the inputs. Another way to look at this is that 80% of the results come from 20% of the time, or 80% of the profits come from 20% of the products and customers. (Pareto’s law)
A final thing Ferriss discusses is Parkinson’s law which states that a task will swell in importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. Ferriss contends that giving too much time to do any task, we make a mountain out of a mole hill and that a product of better quality will be produced when given less time. In all fairness, it all depends on the project. You can’t demand a product in a day that in actuality needs a week to produce and expect top quality. But the point he’s making is about focus. And the point we need to take away is that we need to take a fresh honest look at our business and make the main thing the main thing.
What is your 20%? How much time do you spend doing the 80% in order to avoid doing the 20%? When you can answer that honestly, you probably understand exactly what focus is. Now the steps are clear:
- Decide what your 20% is
- Ask yourself why you’re not focusing on it.
- Decide how you’re going to make the main thing the main thing.
Most of us get caught up in trying to accomplish trivial tasks. It makes us feel good. But what you make out of your business and your life is the outcome of what you focus on. So it’s critical to focus on the most meaningful things in your business and in your life.
Like so many other things in life, learning to focus comes down to making a decision that you will do it.
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