Man looking through magnifying glass

The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus. – Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee believed a higher level of mental focus was the secret of his success. The kung fu legend wasn’t the biggest or strongest or fastest. But he’s probably the best-known martial artist.

The lesson for us normal humans is that we don’t necessarily need to have the best idea, the best strategy or the best marketing. Yes, being good at these things is important. But we can become great if we have a pinpoint focus.

Here’s nine ways you can become a black belt in your focus and direction.

1 Have a clear vision

Do you have a dream, a vision of where you see yourself in three to five years? You can’t get pumped about your quarterly goals or daily tasks if you don’t have that carrot dangling in front of you. Think hard about what you really want. And – this is important – write it down.

2 Set goals that’ll stretch you

When you have a clear vision, you can then set goals. Decades of research show that doing this leads to better performance. What’s more, people that set stretch goals perform better. Write down three big goals that’ll help you achieve your vision.

3 Create milestones that are less scary

Your goals should be big, hairy and audacious. However, much like creating your own martial art in defiance of centuries of tradition, they can be daunting. So, chunk down your ambitious goals into smaller milestones that you can achieve each day or week. Review them at the start and end of each week to keep yourself on track.

4 Do the big things first

We’re not all morning people. However, research shows that most of us are productive in the first few hours of each day. This is the time to do your most important task – think about your strategy, write a white paper or analyse your financials.

5 Write down your top three tasks first thing in the morning

Write down your three very important tasks (we call them VITs) for the day. Before you have breakfast, walk the dog or check your email, set out your priorities. We like the evernote app for list-making and journaling.

6 Don’t work on your email until 11am

What percentage of your emails are asking you to do something for someone else? Most of them, right? Once you open your inbox, your brain starts work on the messages – in other words, other people’s “to do” lists. Don’t do that – work on your own to-do list first. Of course, if you absolutely have to check your email first thing, make sure it’s after you’ve set up your day and written down your VITs.

7 Gamify your work

Like Pavlov’s dog, reward yourself when you hit your targets. If you like Oreo cookies, place two on the desk in front of you and tell yourself you can have them once you’ve written your blog, decided on your marketing strategy or analysed your P&L.

8 Know your distractions and deal with them

It could be social media. The internet. Or the fridge. You know your kryptonite. So be aware of it and set up your workspace to be more productive. If technology is your weakness, turn off your phone, your email and the internet while you focus on your critical tasks.

9 Create more time

Of course, that’s not possible. But you can create more productive time by batching. For example, do all your email between 11am and 12 noon and between 4.30pm and 5pm (don’t forget to write a friendly email auto-responder). You can also apply batching to other tasks, like phone calls, meetings and admin.

Your action plan

Our top three take-aways are:

  1. Fix your email addiction. Start by working in batches twice a day.
  2. What’s your vision? Go for a walk and decide what it is you really want.
  3. Set three goals that excite you and chunk them down into weekly milestones.

Have you found this useful? Email Pete or tweet @petewilkinson and tell him what you’ve done to become a ninth-dan grandmaster.

Posted by Pete Wilkinson

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