What every leader ought to know about focus and engagement

This is the second in the series of posts where I share my notes and takeaways from the May 10th leadercast. If you missed post 1, you can read it here

This week, my notes/takeaways are from David Allen. David has been named one of the Top 5 Forbes Executive Coaches in the United States and has authored two books. His most recent one is titled “Getting Things Done” published in 2002.

  • “When your creative energy is not being used appropriately you’re wasting your time.”
  • When you’re wasting your time, things start to get out of control and they are not in focus.
  • “You’re most productive and motivated when you have the freedom to make a mess.”
  • Use nature as an example. It’s never in a hurry…
    • Save your energy. It helps you feel more engaged and focused.​ 
    • With Quadrant 1, 2 and 3 (see image below) you’re always unprepared.

Self Management Matrix from David Allen
  • How to appropriately engage:
  1. Embrace flexibility / not perfection
  2. Shift in/out (Water responds to whatever it interacts with / be like water and respond)
  3. Focus your attention on whatever has your attention 
    • You cannot multitask – no one can. You switch quickly from one to another but you don’t do them simultaneously.
  • Keys to helping you focus
  1. Capture your thinking
    • Then notice what you’ll notice.
      “Discover your work and give it all of your heart”.
    • There is an inverse relationship between what is on your mind and getting it done.  If you keep ignoring what’s on your mind, it’ll never let go of your attention.
    • If it’s on your mind, get it out of your mind by writing it down so you can focus on the task at hand.
  2. Make Outcome/Action Decision
    • Once things are out of your mind and on paper, you need to make decisions that incite you to take action.
      • E.g. Don’t just write “mom” on the paper. Be specific and write what it is you have to do with and for mom.
  3. Use the right map (Prioritize)
  • Being appropriately engaged orients you to your simplicity and you focus.
  • Coming out of a meeting with someone, you should always ask these two questions
    1. What are we trying to accomplish? (The next steps/action items)
    2. Yours or mine? (Whose responsibility is it?)
      “Don’t ignore what’s got your attention, it won’t go away.”

Do you ever find yourself with so many things vying for your attention and you don’t know what to do? How do you deal with it? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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