Focus Hocus Pocus

It’s the end of the day and you think back through it as you make supper. You realize that very little of the time was spent in those activities that actually make you money.

You did read through those blog posts and articles – all work-related and in your industry. You wrote comments and had a great Linked In discussion with your counterparts all across North America. You wrote those emails for your volunteer work. You answered a couple of client questions. You prepared a plan for that project you want to do and sent out a couple of emails to other people who might want to partner on it. You puzzled over why the private industry folk passed on that great project and the government lady is happy to get together with you, even though it doesn’t really fit into any of the programs she administers.

Tomorrow you are meeting a client for coffee to talk about their latest project and how you can help (probably for free because it’s a great cause). You are meeting with the subcommittee from your volunteer Board. You are meeting that government lady and she may have some good contacts for you to follow up.  Then there’s the blog posts you should write.

At the back of your mind is that loan payment you have coming up and wondering how to make supper with what’s in the pantry and you still haven’t done any work for pay.

Is there any doubt in your mind that focus is the only way out of this?

I hear you. Your volunteer work is important. You have to keep up with the latest in your industry. You love to connect with your clients and give lots of service for free. Giving back is the underpinning of our society. The gift economy is where we are headed, you’re just ahead of the curve.

All of that is true. So is the fact that you have to make money to pay for your space, heat, lights and food. How can we do both?

This question has been front and centre for me for the past while and I’m still thinking it through. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Guidelines for being generous and making a living:

Pick a percentage of time and stick to it. The big guys max out at 20% time and that time often comes back in R&D outcomes. They can afford to let their staff have 20% of their time to work on other things because they know overall they will get it back in job retention at the least and in products or services they can develop and sell for a lot of money.

Focus on a single outcome. I know you have lots of interests, but pick the most interesting and put the rest on the back burner for now. Just pick one. You can get to the others in turn. Otherwise, you’ll work on all of them a little bit and none of them will work. After 5 years you could have had 2 or 3 of them up and running if you did them one at a time.

Focus on one and make it a BIG project. When trying to juggle several at the same time, we can’t imagine them being big. When we focus on one, Providence, as they say, moves, too and contacts, ideas and resources drop into our laps to make it big. When we try to make it too small it doesn’t have the momentum to grab hold and work.

Focus and make sure everything you do leads you towards that single outcome. Yes, that means saying no to anything that’s not leading there. You’ve had the experience of other people who are perfectly willing to say no to you and you are okay with it, because you know it’s not aligning with their goals.

Focus because the economy is tighter than it’s been in a long, long time and you don’t have the capacity you once did to give. It used to be that you could tighten up the old belt if you had to, but you are pinched as tight as you can be.

Focus on offering exceptional value. People are buying less so you are having to work harder to get the work that used to just fall into your lap.

Focus on what is most important provide that. Talk to your customers to find out what is important to them and don’t bother offering the other stuff that you think is important. You are wasting resources by doing that. Remember that it’s not about money. People will still pay to get what they need and want in the way they want it. So give it to them.

Focus your story telling on why people should work with you. Your customers are harder to reach as they are spread all over social media and they are more distracted than ever. As soon as you say that you can do whatever they need, they forget about you. They don’t want to have to figure it out, they need you to tell them. And by ‘they’ I mean ‘we’ Think about in your own life and how you reacted the last time you heard someone say, “Just call me, I can do whatever you need.” rather than “If you need help with this particular thing, call me.”

Focus. Concentrate. We’re all easily distracted and that makes it harder than ever to stay on task. As I write this, I have more tabs open than I can see. They are calling to me. I have promised myself that in 2 hours, I will grab a pot of licorice tea and indulge. Until then, I will finish this post and do the next thing on my list and the next.

Focus. It works like magic. Hocus Pocus!



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