Coming to the end of the last year with so many meetings, I wanted to make focus one of my themes for 2018. One easy way to do this is to focus on less. I wanted to set a “goal” of only doing a certain number of things, but that seemed like spending time on the negative vs. the positive. In this case, a theme of focus accomplishes my macro goal; make the things I am working on successful.

Focus is about saying “no” more often. Focus is about being an editor with your time, and allowing for time to think vs filling it with meetings. Focus means spending time on future planning for your self, team, company in a way you may not have in the past. With the filter of focus, I can cut things out while prioritizing the things that matter in a positive way.

A helpful filter is the question; Does the following meeting, call, or task match up with one of my short-medium-long term goals? If not, don’t focus on it.

Sometimes this means saying no. I have heard it put nicely that saying “no” is a muscle you have use regularly, otherwise it withers. It also becomes easier the more you use it. This also means clear follow ups and declines vs. ignoring a request. You would be surprised at how well people respond when you clarify your focus as the reason you won’t do the thing they are asking you for.

The best example of actually making this happen is within your calendar. At a team offsite some years ago, I got a great piece of advice on how to dig into things founders are having trouble with. A common issue is always recruiting. To dig into the problem you can ask see someones calendar, and find out what kind of time they are carving out to screen, interview, and actually hire. More times than not (and in my experience as well) calendars are filled with 1:1s, planning sessions, product sessions, fundraising sessions and the like. So the parable goes that while the biggest “issue” is hiring – the time and focus is actually somewhere else entirely.

Using this function on the above problem, the focus should be spent on hiring by carving out actual time on your calendar. This can lead to more thoughtful job specs that match the needs of the business, alignment internally on what to do before, during and after the hiring happens, and the on-boarding and retention of the person.

By making focus a priority the things you spend time on will benefit, you will get more things over the finish line, and spend time on the things that matter. The downside is that you may miss some opportunities, folks may take things personally (it’s not you it’s me!), and you may not have as many “busy” days.

This also helps to prioritize more maker time, something I am trying to do more of this year. An orthogonal theme this year is to spend my time being the best advisor to the startups I work with possible, so if I am focus on other things – don’t take it personally.

Also published on Medium.