For the last two weeks, I’ve ruthlessly focused on only one thing at work.
What do I mean by ruthlessly focused? Well, I usually take about an hour at the beginning of the week to reflect on my priorities and plan the week. There’s always a range of stuff to get done – big strategic stuff, projects, smaller tasks, meetings, things to communicate etc. I finish with a plan that feels like the right priorities and is realistic.
I didn’t do any of that in the last two weeks. I knew there was one big thing I had to do really well. This one thing was far more important than everything else, to an order of magnitude.
I allowed myself to get completely lost in it. Other than key meetings, I didn’t think about or do much else. My daily planning was very loose. When I wasn’t working on it, I intentionally didn’t try to tackle other things. Instead, I allowed myself some space and downtime – which only helped me do the one thing better when I came back to it.
I’m coming to the end of those two weeks now. That one thing got done really well and I’m proud of that. But, now it’s time to get back to a more structured way of working starting next week.
This type of ruthless focus can be a really useful way of working when you need to make progress on one very important thing. But, it can also be dangerous. It feels really nice to let go of some of the structure and get lost in something. With that there’s a risk that you end up losing your discipline and structure for longer than you need to. You may also end up neglecting other important things and causing yourself problems. And don’t be surprised if it ruffles some feathers with others when you’re not available to help with things that are important to them.
Here are a few tips for making this type of approach work:
- Correctly identify the one important thing. Don’t use it as an excuse to enjoy the luxury of letting go of structure. It has to be something that is truly of significant importance and will benefit from extreme focus. You’ll usually find that these come around infrequently.
- Know when to do it. The timing has to be right. If you have other commitments that can’t be dropped, it will be difficult to pull off extreme focus on something else.
- Know when to switch back. It’s enticing to let go of the structure and give yourself permission to focus on only one thing. So much so, that it can be easy to stay in that zone for too long. I usually find a few days or one week is enough – two weeks at a maximum. If I focus on only one thing for more than two weeks, I absolutely will end up dropping things that will cause me problems.
- Let others know what you’re doing. That way, they won’t be offended if you’re not available to help them with things that are important to them. They’ll also be less likely to interrupt you.