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To Think About . . .
Think big and act small. Leslie Koch
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« How to have a great 2008! | Main | Distraction or pure action »


When you give something your attention, just how much attention do you give it?

I said in my first book Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play that the key to dealing with any task, problem, challenge or project is to give it the amount of focused attention that it needs. You can’t succeed if you don’t give it your attention. Or if that attention is not focussed, or if you don’t give it sufficient attention.

That is one of the reasons why it is so important to make sure that you don’t take on more things than you are able to give that sort of attention to.

When you do give something your attention, it starts to move. But it doesn’t always move in the way you expect it to. For instance a couple of years ago, I decided to make this website produce a lot of income. I expected the income to come from advertisements. But in fact what I found was that advertisements were hard work. What instead I found was that the website was an excellent way of attracting firms and organisations which wanted in-house time management training, and also for selling my own seminars.

So giving my attention to the website did indeed produce excellent results, but they weren’t quite the ones I was looking for. This is quite normal: when things begin to move new opportunities start opening up all the time. That’s a good reason why plans should never be so rigid that you can’t adapt to the new opportunities.

One note of caution though: don’t think that just because something is a good opportunity that you therefore have to take it. Taking on opportunities indiscriminately is a fine way to dilute your attention, not focus it.

Reader Comments (5)

Excellent post, Mark. Reminds me of this idea from Koch's "The 80-20 principle:"

Under no circumstances give everyone a fair share of your time. And above all don't do something just because people ask or because you receive a phone call or an email or a fax.

At first I thought this was harsh, but now I get it.

Another related thought: In "The Demon-Haunted World" Carl Sagan, when asked about the "face" on Mars, said "Is this about the face? I can give you five minutes." :-)
January 18, 2008 at 17:48 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell
Dear Matthew

I think I might write another post soon to expand on the idea that just because something is a good idea doesn't mean we have to do it!
January 18, 2008 at 19:22 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark,

Just wanted to say thanks - as someone who is freshly starting up in business, this idea that 'just because something is a good idea doesn't mean we have to do it!' has been a real inspiration and has helped me to stay focused and on course on more than one occasion. I keep finding myself quoting you on this, including:
April 14, 2008 at 15:31 | Unregistered CommenterGrace Marshall
Hi, Grace

That principle is important - but never so important as when first starting up. The lack of results that one almost always experiences at the "seed-sowing" stage means that one is constantly liable to be tempted by brilliant ideas which take you off in a different direction. It's important to resist them and concentrate on one's original focus.

I like your blog by the way. It looks very lively!

April 15, 2008 at 8:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark,

Thank you, for both the advice and the compliment. I'm glad you like it!

It's easy to forget that lack of results at the "seed-sowing" stage is the rule rather than the exception, and when confidence gets shaken, twists, turns and difficult paths start looking like stop signs.
April 17, 2008 at 9:31 | Unregistered CommenterGrace Marshall

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