Leaders Ought To Know Blog

2016 Blizzard Taught Me Something about Focus

The big blizzard of 2016 taught me something about focus. The fabulous redhead and I live fairly far off the main road.  When it snows, even just a few inches, we’re likely to be snowed in until someone comes and plows us out.  Not that I mind, you understand.  I rather enjoy working, cozied up to the woodstove, when people assume I’m snowed in.

2016 Blizzard and Staying Focused

The blizzard of 2016 was big enough that we thought we’d better line up someone with a tractor to scrape our lane.  At some point we’d want to get out and mix with our fellow citizens.  Translation: we’d want to sit in front of the fireplace at Cracker Barrel and swap yarns with some of the locals.  So we called our friend Ricky.

2016 blizzardRicky is a prince of a man, willing to help anyone in need.  Besides, he has the best toys; he brought his new backhoe over.  But Ricky managed to get his backhoe stuck!  And, in the process of trying to extract himself — using some tricky maneuvers with the bucket and the backhoe arm at the same time — Ricky managed to run one of the tires off of the rim.  It was a frustrating day for Ricky, and I really empathized.

As we were waiting for help to come, Ricky admitted what had happened.  He had gotten a call on his cell phone and had answered it, just as he was approaching a culvert.  He lost just enough focus so that he ran the backhoe into a deep ditch.  And that’s when the troubles really got started.

I’ve been reflecting on what happened to Ricky.  When I was younger, I prided myself on being a great multitasker.  But now, I wouldn’t characterize myself that way.  I wonder.  Is that because 30 years ago the tasks I was juggling were simply less complicated?  After all, the breadth of my responsibilities was much narrower when I was just starting out in my career.  Or perhaps it is because 30 years ago I hadn’t accumulated so much history, experience, knowledge, and the detritus of life one collects through the years.  It was easier to multitask with a relatively clean slate.  And then there’s the reason I fear the most: that my old synapses just don’t fire as quickly as they used to and I’m no longer quite capable of multitasking the way I could when I was younger.

Whatever the reason, I’ve found that the ability to focus is increasingly important to me.  I used to be proud of my ability to multitask.  In hindsight, I wonder how effective I was.  Was it possible I was a lot like Ricky today?  I thought I could keep the backhoe on the road and answer the phone at the same time.  But I couldn’t.

Here’s what I learned out in the blizzard today, waiting for a beached backhoe rescue:

  1. Whatever I’m doing at the time, THAT’S what I need to focus on.
  2. But, because this is a fast-paced world, what I need to work on, instead of multitasking, is my ability to SWITCH FOCUS, and switch it fast, when I need to.
  3. Because I only have so much time to go around, PRIORITIZATION becomes vital.  Knowing what to focus on, and when, is the real key.

So what do you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on focus and prioritization and lessons you may have learned from the 2016 blizzard.

Posted by Martin Ramsay in Planning.


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