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Letting Yourself Focus

Jeff Shuck
May 13, 2021
Recently, Jennifer was out of the office for a week, in Los Angeles caring for her son as he underwent surgery to repair an injured leg. Many of you have kept abreast of that story, and I know I speak for Jen when I say she really appreciated all the good wishes we've received for her family.
 
I spoke to towards the end of her trip and she passed on something I thought was worth sharing. She said, "Thanks so much to you and the Plenty team for just letting me be here without any distractions."
 
Let me back up a bit. Before she left, the entire team sat down to coordinate our work and prepare for her absence. And honestly, Jen was feeling a bit torn – wanting to try to continue to help the rest of us out, but really wanting to be present with her son in Los Angeles.
 
We made it easy for her. "Let's just let you be out," I said. "Let's not say you're 'working from LA.' Just take the week off and be with your son." 
 
I'm so glad she agreed to that. It made it easier for her to care for her family, and easier for our team to move forward knowing we'd loop her in when she got back.
 
It's a funny thing, focus. We all know that we shouldn't multitask – we've all heard that there's value in being present, practicing intentionality, and being deliberate in what we do. Most of you have probably even read one of the numerous studies that show that productivity actually decreases during multitasking. 
 
And yet, every day we work against our own focus. We listen to podcasts during our morning workouts. We use email programs that have calendars embedded into them. We carry around phones and pull them out whenever we have a spare moment -- so we can be "productive" as we wait in line for our morning coffee.
 
It feels harder than ever to allow ourselves permission to focus on one thing. But in doing one thing at a time, there's such incredible peace, power, and productivity. Flow follows focus.
 
In our strategy work, we rarely find that an organization has underperformed because its team lacks ambition. We often find the reverse, though – the team has set four or five or six high-priority goals, all competing for attention, and as a result nothing gets done well, everyone is discouraged, and the organization feels like it can't get traction.
 
If your car gets stuck in a ditch, you don't pull out your phone to check your stocks while you push it with the other hand. You put both of your hands, arms, shoulders, back, and legs into the work and you heave – and pop!, the car slides back out.
 
What might happen for you today if you let yourself put that same attention to whatever it is you're doing? 
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