If you want to be successful you must focus on goals, in business or personal affairs.
To focus means to direct time and attention to a limited number of issues. Things that are outside your selected area of focus become unimportant. Tune them out rigorously. – But this is easier said than done.
Do you also have a tough time rigorously rejecting requests, calls for help or opportunities that present themselves when these are outside of your area of focus?
I occasionally catch myself saying “yes” when I should have actually said “no”. Someone asks me for a favor, and I agree without giving it much thought. This usually results in stress and unnecessary time pressure.
Why do we have such a tough time saying “NO”?
I can think of several answers to this:
- We underestimate the effort.
- We fear consequences.
- We are afraid that we will miss out on something.
- We suffer from the helper syndrome.
- We feel flattered.
- We want to be liked.
- We feel responsible, even though we are actually not.
Which response best applies to you?
This is how to handle opportunities and requests!
The following tips help me to handle opportunities, request and favors that are outside my area of focus. They may not always work for me – but I am getting better results all the time:
1. Do not rush the decision!
Take the time to think about it, so that you can realistically assess the effort. Create a clear picture of the consequences for yourself if you agree. What does this mean in terms of time and stress?
2. When you say no, do so courteously but directly!
Do not beat around the bush. Your rationales should be brief and to the point.
3. Whenever possible, offer an alternative!
In this way you help the other party and stay focused.
4. Once you have made a decision, stick with it.
Fear of change!
The fear of missing out on an opportunity is frequently stronger than the awareness to remain focused. I frequently observe this in companies that need to adjust or change their previous business model.
They develop a good corporate strategy to improve their profitability. Everyone is in agreement that long-term profitability can only be attained by rigorous positioning. The new strategy is adopted and is ready for implementation – no sooner than that, a telephone call comes in and all the old habits fall back in place:
“Yes, I know! We want to focus on the profitable industry A, but here is this new customer from industry B who is dangling this order in front of us…..”
And just like that, the good intention to focus comes crashing down. Instead of saying “no”, the decision is made to take the path of least resistance.
The laboriously developed strategy is placed on the back burner. The new positioning to become more profitable falls by the wayside. It is best to generate revenue now at a low contribution margin. After all, it is possible that the new strategy might not work out.
Albert Einstein appropriately described this behavior as follows:
“The purest form of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and to also expect that something will change.”
This is how to remain rigorous and focused!
Before adopting a strategy discuss its implementation in detail. Simulate various scenarios. Think about what could go wrong during the implementation process. Discuss what-if scenarios and how your company needs to respond to these.
Set a minimum period during which you and your company will remain true to the new strategy, for instance 3 months. Do not allow yourself to lose focus during these 3 months, regardless of what “opportunities” present themselves during this period. Change your focus during this time only if you are confronted with an unexpected critical issue.
You should then evaluate the results after 3 months and reassess the situation. Is it necessary to adjust the strategy and your focus? Now is the time to do so – but not before this period has expired!