How many times has someone asked you about an action that you committed to and you responded: “I’m sorry. I haven’t had time to get to that yet”. Many of these tasks would take only 5 minutes or less to do, so are you really saying you didn’t have 5 minutes to perform this task?
Our world is certainly limited by time, but I believe that it is even more limited by focus. As information workers, we are expected to be able to maintain and perform a wide variety of functions in our jobs. Each of the hats we wear, requires us to spend focused energy to understand the problem and subsequently spend our time on those items.
We can only focus on so many different stimuli before we get the deer in the headlights look at the sheer amount of chaos bearing down on us. Subsequently, our effectiveness is decreased and instead of recognizing the cause — lack of focus, we typically attribute this to lack of time.
Why does the squeaky wheel get the grease in most organizations? Most of the time we think this is just to make the whining stop, but I think it has a whole lot more to do with the organization needing to know which problems to solve first — it allows them to focus on a specific problem amid the morass of tasks awaiting their attention.
As organizations, as leaders, and as friends, we would do well to manage our focus even before we manage our time. To understand our limitations of focus and recognize that even though we have the time to spend on a 5 minute task, we may not have the focus to make sure that it gets done.