What SHOULD you be doing? What COULD you be doing? Two very different questions, that is for sure. 

Last week I ran across two blog posts that addressed the subject of focus. To be honest… I ran across them while my mind was wondering to some far off place. The reality? I was sitting in front of my laptop appearing to be concentrating on my email. 

The universe was trying to tell me something. Could it be… focus… focus… focus? Okay, I got the message. You don’t have to hit ME over the head!

One of the blog posts was from my friend Cordell Parvin titled "Contacts: Are You Focused or is it Random Lunches?" The other was from the blog Lawyerist by Tyler White titled "Drop the Distractions and Get to Work." They both have great bits of insight that can serve as a reminder. Pay attention!

Focus On Your Work – Tyler White helps us minimize distractions…

1. Make yourself unavailable. Close your door, put up a sign, put a pissy look on your face at the coffee shop. Do whatever you have to do to let everyone around you know that it’s game time. 

2. Throw on some music. When I need to get down to business, I like to put on some classical music at a low volume and just leave it be. This isn’t because I’m a pretentious audiophile or anything; I can just focus better with some nice ambient music playing.

3. Unplug from the Matrix. It isn’t news that we surround ourselves with focus-draining devices all day long. Smartphones, laptops and iPads are very useful tools, but they are also huge sources of distraction. A British study shows that people who check their emails while working exhibit a lower ability to concentrate than someone under the influence of marijuana. 

4. Block yourself out. If it’s possible for you to do, block out two hours of your day for straight-up distraction-free work. It might seem ridiculous to you to schedule a time for NOT answering the phone or responding to email, but you probably do it all the time. If you schedule a time for you to be in court or in a client meeting, it’s the same thing, and I would argue it’s of equal importance. It’s amazing what we can accomplish and how crisp we can be when we allocate time to concentrate.

I have used all of these for some time… believe me they work! (Email junkies heed the British study.)

Focus on Your Contacts – Cordell has a great system to follow…

1. Make a list of all of your contacts.

2. Give them a score 1-10 on how often you are in contact with them (every business day-likely someone with whom you work-gets a 10, less than once a month gets a 1.)

3. Give them a score 1-10 on the nature of your contact (in person gets a 10, email instant message a 1, phone a 5 and combinations fall between)

4. Give them a score 1-10 on how important they are (client contact or business referral source a 10, you don’t have a chance of ever getting any business a 1 and everyone else in between).

5. With Excel press the button and your highest rated ones will come to the top.

6. Consider spending 80% of your networking time with the top 20% of your contacts. Try to upgrade how you are in contact. In a day where email and contact on Facebook is so common, calling your contact and meeting in person is more powerful.

I love Cordell’s last statement… personal contact is what truly cultivates a relationship. Take your online contacts offline.

You get what you focus on. Remember when your mother said… "Don’t drop the milk!" What happened? Your focus was on dropping the milk… and you dropped the milk. So, focus on your BIG GOAL for 2012 and you will reach it… at the very least you will get pretty close!