Is Focus the Key to Success?

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Is Focus the Key to Success?, Leslie Grossman, The Three Tomatoes

I spend about 1-1/2 hours each day on email and social media. Much less than many people, but still too much time in my opinion. That being said, I learn a lot from what I read on the Internet. Just yesterday I learned that both Warren Buffett and Bill Gates attribute their success to one word – FOCUS (per Greg McKeown on LinkedIn). Focus is what I try to do every day. Some days I achieve it. Most days I do not. And I often get angry at myself for being distracted from doing the activities required to achieve my primary goal.

Even now I’m beating myself up for taking time to write my blog about ‘focus’ when I should be focusing on growing my Vistage CEO Advisory Board. We have ten members, 16 is my goal, so I have some outreach, conversations and interviewing to do. If you are like me, you experience a need to be better focused. Consider what Greg McKeown says in his new book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. “The way of the essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not…”

I haven’t read Greg’s book yet and won’t until I decide if it is absolutely essential. (By the way, his advice could hurt his book sales.) However, I would say that essentialism is certainly in line with focus, only more radical.

So how do we get more focus or essentialism in our lives? Here’s some basic strategies — some I already do; others I hope to incorporate into my day:

-Schedule all your meetings outside the office for specific days, rather than randomly throughout your work week.

-Before you schedule those meetings, consider whether they will contribute to your purpose. If you decide ‘no’ , than don’t schedule them at all. Postpone them until 30 days from now. Make a note on your calendar to consider reconnecting with the person(s) at that time. By then you will know for sure if the meeting fits in with your purpose.

-If you are not certain if a meeting or a connection is in line with your goal, then schedule a phone or SKYPE call for 20 – 30 minutes, so you don’t spend the extra time an in-person meeting requires. Tell the person in advance how much time you have for the call. If after the call, you determine an in-person meeting makes sense, then go ahead and schedule it.

-Start the call or any in-person meeting by asking the person for a brief overview of what their goal or purpose is, so you can support them through connections or information (per the strategy of building trusted relationships shared in my book LINK OUT). You will also discover if your goals are in alignment.

-Make a weekly list (and a daily list) on Sunday night and mark the to do’s as ‘A’ for the most essential actions to reach your goal. Cross them off as you complete them. If you have time, start on the secondary activities on the list. The next day update your list and again mark the essentials ‘A’. Continue this process. I learned this in Time Management 101 25 years ago. Why do I still not do this?

-Use signs around your desk, your office, your cell phone etc. The signs should say, what else? FOCUS! Some should also say a few word representing your most important action. In my case it would be “Grow Your Group”.

These strategies are not brain surgery. We all know them. But somehow most of us don’t practice them. Why? Maybe because being FOCUSED does not come naturally to most human beings. Our brains are always thinking about new ideas and things we need to do. If we want to be super-successful than it couldn’t hurt to emulate two extraordinary leaders. In fact, maybe I will make a little sign that says, “Be like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates – FOCUS”. To learn more about focus from a brilliant think. View Daniel Goleman’s video based on his book Focus: The Secret to High Performance and Fulfillment.

What tactics do you use to stay focused? Please share them. I will feature your suggestions in an upcoming blog. — You can reach Leslie Grossman at


  • Leslie Grossman

    Women business owners, execs and professionals will get sage advice from Leslie Grossman, who coaches CEOs and executives. She chairs VISTAGE Private Advisory Boards for CEOs, is Cofounder of the Women's Leadership Exchange® (WLE) and her book, LINK OUT provides the inside scoop on how leaders build their businesses and change the world through trusted relationships. Visit Leslie at:

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