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Your Focus Needs a Plan

Being focused on your work is one of those "easier said than done" parts of life. The 'want' is there. The 'will' can waver. But were you even focused on the right parts of your work? Without a plan, focus becomes another casualty of good intentions.

The bottom line of focus

Leaders need each individual, and collectively, the team, to focus on the tasks that will ultimately achieve the desired outcomes. But what is focus? Is it staring at a screen all day, or being hyper-vigilant in rapid responses to every incoming email? Maybe, maybe not. Where your focus should be depends on what your objectives are. Being busy shouldn't be mistaken for working with focus.

Deep vs. shallow work

'Deep work' is what we do to bring value to our companies, and to our clients. At the other end of the spectrum is 'shallow work': the tasks or functions which require less specialized skill or knowledge, that could be done be many people, or even automated.

The more shallow work we do (whether it’s wading through email or tagging friends in a few Facebook memes), the less deep work we can do, because we’re too busy. Think about email: if you send 40 emails/day, and receive 120, you’re looking at 160 emails total. If you’re super-efficient and can read and manage (delete, forward, respond) each email in one minute, that’s still over two-and-a-half hours a day spent on email. Add in voicemail, texts, tweets, and other communication channels, and you’ve lost half your workday, without getting to the good stuff.

Don't blame it on social

Technology isn’t the problem—it’s how we choose to use it. Email, social channels, messaging platforms—they all have a purpose, and can be incredibly useful at work and in our personal lives. We need stay in control of our time, and build healthier habits around our use of technology.

Victoria Gray is principal of Vigeo Marketing Consulting, and a faculty member with Smart Savvy Academy. Her curiosity about the impact of the digital age on our professional and personal lives has led her to dig into the topic to uncover the pros and the cons, along with some personal discovery around focus and distraction.

Refocus your focus

  1. Examine the social platforms on which you spend the most time. Why are you on each channel – what are the benefits? More importantly, are the negatives outweighed by these benefits? If a social channel isn’t giving good ROI, it might be time to close that account.
  2. A full-out detox can be a wake-up call to how strong the grip of social media is on your time. A regular “fast” e.g. Social-free Sundays, can provide a regular break in social consumption through developing a new, healthy habit (and possibly – reconnecting with friends, nature, or your book collection).
  3. Be mindful of time spent on social media. Set a timeframe and be purposeful and task focused. For example, on Wednesday from 1:30-3pm, scheduled yourself to scroll LinkedIn to check for upcoming events which might provide speaking opportunities. Scheduled social time is essential for professionals who access social media as part of their work life.

Read more: Deep Work by Cal Newport is a combination of storytelling and actionable advice, and makes a strong case for how deep work improves results in almost any profession. Newport believes that transforming our minds and habits is no easy feat, but leads to mastering complicated information and producing better results.

Learn more: Reclaim Focus. Rediscover Productivity is a half-day, on demand workshop offered through Smart Savvy Academy, and facilitated by Victoria Gray. Learn how to retrain your brain to minimize distractions and get important work done. 


CatherineCatherine Ducharme is Director of Client Services with Smart, Savvy + Associates, who are experts in helping marketing and communications leaders find people and develop teams that thrive and deliver inspiring results. As a people performance company, we specialize in finding marketing and communications talent in the Pacific North West. We also offer training programs for leaders and teams as well as options to become a certified coach or get coached.

Catherine Ducharme

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