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Find your focus -- and keep it

How to sharpen your skills and stay ahead of the pack

Jen Weigel

May 8, 2012

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Focus seems like an obvious skill for getting ahead. But even those in charge have a difficult time keeping their eye on the prize, according to Les Hewitt, co-author of "The Power of Focus."

"I worked with a CEO of an IT company, and he said he spent only 5 percent of his work week doing what he did best, and he's running the show!" said Hewitt, who contributed new content for the recently released 10th anniversary edition of "The Power of Focus". "My goal is to get people to 80 percent."

Hewitt said he asks employees and employers to make a list of every activity they do in an average work week.

"The biggest list I received was 69 activities from a CEO in California," he said. "He was under so much stress he hadn't had a holiday with his family for years."

After you make this list, Hewitt said you should ask yourself, "What are the three things I do best?"

"When I ask people what are their top three, most of the time they can't answer the question," he said. "It shows you how unfocused they are. That should be on the tip of your tongue."

And don't forget to calculate the percentage of your week you actually spend doing those three things. Hewitt said most range from 15 percent to 35 percent focus. If you are below 80 percent (as most are), Hewitt suggests implementing what he calls "The Four Fundamentals."

"You don't need 60 ways to be successful, so I've trimmed it down to four," he said. Here they are:

Clarity. "Take a day off to think," Hewitt said. "Write down your ideas and goals and get a system in place for your future."

And in case you're worried about spending time on just thinking, Hewitt said this: "Letting something marinate is not procrastination. Sometimes an idea might take a year or more to become reality. "

Priorities. Hewitt has what he calls the 4-D Formula to help prioritize: Dump it, Delegate it, Defer it, or Do it. "There are people attempting to do three jobs at once — and stress levels are through the roof," he said. "Ask yourself how you can avoid the distractions ...and the lack of self-discipline to really focus the bulk of your week on the top priorities."

Relationships. "Focusing just on making money won't bring success," Hewitt said. "It's really about building solid strategic relationships with people who can take your business to the next level. When you provide great value you will attract the money — but if you want a well-balanced, happy life, being rich in personal resources and relationships is where you get the wealth."

Successful habits. "My mentor always said to me, 'Work harder on yourself than you do on your job and you will always create more value in the marketplace.' So it's not about the job you're in, but the values you have and the attitude you bring to that job," he said. "Today people hire more on attitude and personality than on skills."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel