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  • Writer's pictureChuck Cusumano

Finding Your Focus

We all have a finite amount of time in life, and – it seems – an infinite number of items on our to-do lists and things begging for our attention. Prioritization is difficult at any level of leadership, in any size of organization, from the line cooks to the CEO. Prioritization is also difficult in our personal lives. That’s why I’ve begun abiding by the following model when deciding where to focus my efforts:

First, let’s tackle the “What Matters” portion of the Venn diagram. It’s easy to get bogged down in things that seem significant, but there’s one adage I like to remember: The 5 by 5 rule. If it won’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes worrying about it.

Figuring out what matters is oftentimes easier than recognizing what we can and cannot control. Time and time again, we think outside circumstances have more power over us than they truly do, forgetting the power that our reaction has over a situation. For this portion of the illustration, I remember the following four things that we always have control over:

  1. Your breathing and your body language. Don’t believe in the power of this? Check out this TED Talk:

  2. Your mental and physical fitness. We’re all busy, but there is no excuse for not finding time to stretch your mind (read before bed, listen to podcasts instead of music on your commute, find a daily puzzle to complete) and to take care of your body (through diet, sleep, and exercise).

  3. Your Effort. Everything worth having takes effort, and what an incredible concept that we have full control over the effort we can give! One of my favorite quotes comes from Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture, in which he says, “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”

  4. Your Gratitude. It’s a proven fact: making thankfulness a daily practice will improve your happiness and productivity. It can actually rewire our brains!

  5. Your Attitude. Perhaps the only thing we have complete, 100% control over, despite any and all outside circumstances. And once we grasp this complete control, we can tackle anything!

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