I posted on social media that I’ll be doing Natalie Sisson’s 10-Day Blog Challenge. Normally I blog 1-2 times per week here, plus posts for Forbes and Money. So 10 days of straight blogging in one place will be a lot! But after writing for over 10 years, I need to mix it up so I’m taking the challenge:
This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 1.
The Day 1 Challenge is to write about what stands in the way of being focused. This was an interesting one for me because one of my mantras is that focus is overrated. By overrated, I mean that I have built a satisfying career that is anything but focused – music to banking to consulting to recruiting to acting to HR to my own business which includes most of the above. In my extreme career changes I have built a seemingly unfocused career. My first challenge to focus, then, is that I like doing a lot of things so when I feel like I “should” focus, it makes me feel pressured to choose. The pressure adds anxiety and also guilt, and I am less productive.
That said, while I can’t seem to focus the arc of my career, I do focus day-to-day. I am a single-tasker. (I don’t even like to listen to music while I work.) This ability to focus on tasks enables me to get a lot done even when I have much to do. So I am focused in some ways and unfocused in others.
I see this with my career coaching clients, as well, and it’s not a contradiction. Many of my clients have multiple interests, and that’s a good thing. You don’t only want to pursue one type of employer or one industry or certainly one company. You want to maintain multiple leads. That said, for each target, you need to be laser focused on your positioning and your interest and your know-how that is specific to them. You can have broad focus in your search overall, but as you approach specific companies or people you need to turn on a singular focus.
Knowing how to focus but also stay flexible and diverse is a challenge. Every time I need to think about an activity for the moment or a project for the day or a project for the week (or longer), I am harnessing resources like my time, money, and attention. If I’m too unfocused I’ll dilute my efforts unnecessarily. If I’m too focused, I may lose interest. If a job seeker is too unfocused s/he sounds uncommitted. If a job seeker is too focused, s/he may narrow opportunities unnecessarily. The exact line is case-by-case and best discovered with experimentation.
For me, I try to pick a theme for the year and projects quarter-by-quarter. Monthly, weekly and daily activities then funnel from those projects. I know when I’m unfocused when I don’t get tangible results. I know when I’m too focused when I’m not at least touching my variety of interests in some way each quarter. Sure, one or two will take priority but juggling a little bit of everything is always a priority too.