Focus! – What Confucius Can Teach You

Image of Confucius

By Sean O’Leary

Have a look at your to-do list, how many items are on it?  What about projects, are you running more than one? Business ideas – I bet you have so many great business ideas, all sure fire winners!  What to do?

It’s a common situation and I certainly find it a problem to narrow down my priorities.  When I’m really struggling I remember this Confucian saying;

The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.”

I think this is quite beautiful in its simplicity and the clarity of the message.  I don’t know about you but I have had plenty of times when I have been so excited about pursing endless opportunities that I haven’t caught any rabbit. No great when you have a big family to feed!

So which’s the rabbit that we chase?

It’s the one that represents our primary goal and that goal / objective whatever we want to call it will vary for each of us.

Starting out in your career and looking to progress in your company or industry, well concentrate on being effective. Effective not efficient.  Tidying up your inbox and sorting mail into folders may be efficient but is it an effective use of your time.  Tim Ferris covers this brilliantly in his book The 4-Hour Work Week. Being effective means you catch your rabbit.

Running a business but you want to look at other opportunities?  Great, effectively take yourself out of the picture.  Make sure your business runs effectively and efficiently, either without you or with the hours you can comfortably allocate to it and still look at other opportunities.  Do this first and make sure that you have processes in place to measure your businesses effectiveness.

Start-up entrepreneur with half a dozen ideas for the next Airbnb or Paypal?  Same deal amigo, which is the rabbit that’s going to feed your little foxes! Focus, see your projects through.  If you have endless winners, keep them in a “winner’s notebook”, you can always return to them.

OK so I started this post talking about to-do lists and they often contain “to do” items that are not just about strategic choices but “stuff” to do. So is there a strategy for dealing with stuff?  Well I don’t know what Confuscius did but I can recommend:

  1. Identify what you can delegate and do so!
  2. Identify if there is anything you can outsource and do so!
  3. You should be left with tasks that only you can do and if not revisit 1 & 2 above.
  4. With whatever is left, do the most difficult thing first, right at the start of your day. It’s incredibly energising to tick off something that we’ve been putting off.

Having trouble getting started?  I’ll do this tomorrow, or next week, probably, maybe?  I can recommend a great book on overcoming procrastination, by Brian Tracy called Eat That Frog.

As Confucius might have said, let me know how you get on!

Sean O’Leary is founder and Chief Wonderer of Fit to Lead, a movement that teaches people how to be their best in life and business.

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