Recently on LinkedIn, author Greg McKeown dives into the single, one-word answer Bill Gates and Warren Buffett both gave attributed to their success: focus. McKeown explains why it’s important to not think of focus as one kind of thing:
The subject has a nuance and depth that many people miss. For a start, most people think of there only being one kind of focus.
Focus as a Noun. When people speak of focus they usually mean having a single goal. It is a static thing, a thing you have…
Focus as a Verb. Focus is not just something you have it is also something you do. This type of focus is not static; it is an intense, dynamic, ongoing, iterative process.
The danger in looking at focus solely from either perspective is that you either restrict yourself too much by using it as a noun or risk the potential of your work by not using focus as a verb. McKeown gives us a solution on how to best utilize both types of focus:
The answer is to develop and value both types of focus. Professor Henry Mintzberg taught that there are two sources of strategy: deliberate strategy, where leaders develop a clear vision and map this to long, medium and short term goals (focus as a noun) and emergent strategy, where people respond to unanticipated problems and opportunities (focus as a verb). It is the disciplined pursuit of both of these approaches that best enables us to focus on what is essential. We can plot this on a two by two to see what is at stake.
To know whether you’re focusing or focused a little too much, look at where you’re spending your time and how the work you’ve recently completed would be plotted on the chart above. If you find yourself in any quadrant but the top-right one, consider how you’re focusing your attention and make adjustments as necessary.