Three steps for instant focus.

Staying FocusedI work with some really great leaders, but there are times when circumstance can challenge even the best of us.

We constantly have to deal with a multitude of demands and opportunities all vying for the few remaining moments of free time in our diaries, and often it takes just a couple of crises before we’re burning the midnight oil to keep up.

So how do we keep our focus when all those around us are losing theirs? Here’s a deceptively simple process I use with people I coach:

Step 1: Identify the CRITICAL GOALS (CGs) that you want to achieve in the next three months. To avoid guilt and stress, include business and personal goals. Write them down as clearly and as SMART as you can, describing the tangible outcomes you want. Where two goals are related, consolidate them. Now pick just two or three business and two or three personal CGs, to focus on for the next 90 days. Seriously, be ruthless. The more you try to juggle, the less you’ll actually achieve.

Step 2: For each CG list Actions, Outcomes and Resources. Actions are the things you need to do to achieve the goal, so if a CG is to fill a critical vacancy fast, actions might be to get a clear job spec and some great interim CVs; if it’s to deliver a restructure, actions might be to define the options and get key people on-side. Outcomes are the things you expect to see happening as a result, like “six CVs that could all do the job”; or “sign-off of a new structure and overheads”. Resources are any things you’ll need to secure up-front, like an agency or a budget.

Step 3: Work back from the Goal date, and for each action and resource, decide when it needs to be in place, and how much quality time it’s likely to take you, then open your calendar and physically book the time you will need to do your part of the tasks. Challenge yourself to delegate any existing commitments that are less important.

Finally, if you’re setting out to achieve really stretching goals, get an Accountability Partner. This is someone who you check in with every week on three things: 1) What you intend to achieve in the week ahead; 2) What you achieved in the week that just passed; 3) What you’ve learned from last week’s successes and failures. If you want to really push yourself, this is one of the best things you can do.

Bottom Line: I know this process sounds absurdly simple, but it makes a huge difference. It takes less than an hour to do and it will transform your focus, and what you can achieve, for weeks to come.