You Have to Focus!

Jun 04, 2007

It’s been said many times— you have to focus if you want to succeed. Yet focus is precisely what so many design and environmental professionals lack. My theory is that architects, engineers, planners, and scientists lack focus because they are extremely intelligent and therefore easily bored. They crave the excitement that comes from constant variety. Design professionals also lack focus because they have many interests. Who can concentrate on one? Conventional wisdom is that life is too short to do one thing— even if just for a while. Yet “doing one thing” in a focused fashion leads to being very good at it. Here’s more of what I am talking about: Focus on one market sector or service line. When you focus on one market or service, you get very good at it. And when you are very good at something, the clients call you, not vice versa. You also get very efficient at things you are good at doing. You can charge more, too— you are the best at what you do because you do a lot of it. If you can’t ever say “no” to a client or project that is not in your focus area, you are doomed. You don’t have the focus it takes to succeed! Focus on one internal problem at a time. Being able to focus is a lot more than just concentrating on being good at serving one market or doing one thing. It is also about being able to solve a problem. When companies have a problem— say their cash flow is terrible— being able to focus on it until it is solved is critical to the company’s survival. This takes a concerted effort from top management. Goals should be set, actions determined, progress tracked, and new goals and action steps taken until the final results are achieved. If you can never actually solve a problem before moving on to the next, you don’t have the focus required to be a truly great manager. Focus on what you really want out of your life. When you keep in mind what you really want in your life, it helps you focus on the right things in your business to make that happen. For example, if you know that, by age 55, you want to be able to get out of your firm and do something else— say, travel the country in your ‘62 Imperial towing a restored Airstream trailer to write a book about minor league baseball— then you will engineer a plan and take the steps that will help make that a reality. If you say “That would be nice to do if it turns out that way,” forget it! You don’t have the focus it takes to make your life what you want it to be. You may be someone who fancies himself or herself to be a real multitasker, someone who can do many things simultaneously without focusing. I know plenty of people like this— myself included. This may, in fact, only be a rationalization for your lack of focus. Stop kidding yourself. Getting focused will make you more successful— in business AND in life. Originally published 6/04/2007

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