Multiple Focuses: How to sort what you’ve got on your plate at the moment

Most of us will find the ONE Thing approach (discussed in the previous newsletter) a little too intense, as we have a number of things on which we need to focus. However, it’s a valuable, if not quite attainable, philosophy. The more often we ask this question and the closer we can come to one core focus, the more productive we are.

Day-to-day, you can use a similar but broader context of focusing on the 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs). We personally have MITs for the year, MITs for the week, and MITs for each day, which all tie together. Having 3 “must do” things a day keeps us focused on making sure we don’t get distracted by incoming action items, emails and other noise. We try to get them done as early in the day as possible, ideally first thing.

If you are not sure which are your 3 most important tasks, you can use a technique called the “Eisenhower Box” to sort them. It’s a very simple concept: a 2×2 grid with Important / Not Important on one axis and Urgent / Not Urgent on the other. The meaning of the quadrants are pretty straightforward:

  1. Not Important / Not Urgent – Tasks to eliminate
  2. Not Important / Urgent – Tasks to spend as little time as possible on (or delegate if possible)
  3. Important / Urgent – Tasks that most people spend their time doing
  4. Important / Not Urgent –  Tasks on which people should focus

We’ve found that most of the truly meaningful impacts that we can make fall in the “Important / Not Urgent” quadrant. A simple goal is to increase the amount of time spent on these activities. We aim for 30% of my time here. Ideally, it would be more like 50%, but if we can keep it above 25%, we can see material movement on our key objectives.

The next time you’re planning out your day (maybe now), make an Eisenhower Box to sort out your tasks. Then try to focus on quadrants 4 and 3. If you do, we’re guessing you’ll feel much more productive at the end of the day!