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A Followup About Focus Time

I wrote about focus time as a leadership quality and I have been thinking about it a lot. Learning is about action and focus time is one of those actions that has been eluding me during this portion of my leadership journey. So I started taking actions yesterday, small things that I know will have a large impact on my ability to focus throughout the day. Note that none of these things are groundbreaking, these are personally significant, but may lead to better focus for everyone, and they bridge the idea of focus between my personal and professional lives.

  1. I removed all but a select few games from my phone. Too often I pick up my phone to read and end up playing a round of something. (Next up might be other forms of entertainment apps.)
  2. I am only checking my email at set times during the day and I will close the app outside of those times. I may use moments away from my computer as times to "check in", but my computer is shifting to a focus engine.
  3. I am setting agendas during blocked timeframes on my calendar. I have things to do, I shouldn't have to spend the first ten minutes of an available hour getting situated.
  4. I am revisiting my hobbies.

This last one is important to expound upon, so I will use one example to provide a bit more context: I’m a cook. Cooking is how I decompress at the end of the day, but my hobbies are often used as focus time. While I do something functionally significant for my family, I am able to review my day, think deeply about things I have yet to fully process, and see a project (a meal) to completion.

The reason I know I get deep thinking done during this hobby is when I don’t feel like cooking. If I’ve had a particularly rough day/week/year/pandemic, I simplify the cooking process, even if subconsciously, and the output isn't the same. However, food is provided and my family gets nourishment. This is important from a leadership perspective because it points to motivators and output within inclusive environments.

As a leader, I am not here to provide motivation, especially at times when someone doesn't want to do the things I am asking. As a leader, I am here to help align what my employees and stakeholders find intrinsically motivating with the my own and my organization's goals. That idea is terribly freeing as a manager, but calls into question what motivates me, outside of activities that require specific locations (a kitchen) or a specific sets of tools that I am admittedly unable to carry around with me at any given time.

One other thing that I do to motivate me is walk or at the very least step outside. This has worked really well when trying to see things from a different perspective. Just getting outside and moving my body provides sufficient motivation and inspiration to get me moving in other ways. The social aspects to motivation are present in most hobbies as well; think about the following topics and questions as motivators for yourself and others within this context and perhaps note where your hobbies may lead to focus and motivation across contexts.

  • Status: how do I compare?
  • Certainty: what's next and is it consistent?
  • Autonomy: what choice do I have?
  • Relatedness: are we connected, do you care about me?
  • Fairness: how am I treated?