How To Stay Focused On the Important Stuff

Last Friday, I sat among others in the waiting room of an incredible organization that helps people with hearing loss. The Center for Hearing and Communication is a century-old not-for-profit that has been instrumental in helping me hear and relearn to communicate after my near-death experience in 2002.

Disturbing the quiet of patients waiting to be seen, a woman stormed into the reception area, and proceeded to lecture the receptionist about some perceived service inadequacy.  Evidently she’d received misinformation from the organization’s website.

The woman demanded to speak to the supervisor and wrote down the names of everyone at the reception desk. As employees worked to calm her, those of us in the waiting room did our best to ignore the scene and not judge how she was treating the staff. Because we’ve all been there. At those times when you feel someone else’s stupidity has cost you something, you’re angry, feeling entitled, and entirely wrapped up in your drama.

The woman had barely left before another dramatic scene started.  This one much more profound.

In walked two women, one completely blind and the other her companion.

The companion helped find seats in the middle of the room. I remembered thinking to myself, “I didn’t know CHC helped the blind also.”  I thought they just worked with hard of hearing and deaf people. Most recently, they’d helped me learn how to speech read (read lips) to enhance my ability to understand what people are saying.

A moment later a clinician arrived and began to speak to the woman’s companion about some next steps. The blind woman’s face was tilted down toward to her feet. She remained composed and appeared to listen. But she wasn’t listening.

Because she couldn’t.

How To Stay Focused On the Important Stuff
Communicating when you cannot hear or see

A moment later the clinician gently took both of the deaf-blind woman’s hands. The woman responded immediately by beginning to stand up. And the clinician started using sign language right into the hands of the deaf-blind woman, holding and moving their four hands together. This was how they communicated.

As their conversation ended, the woman’s companion hooked her arm and led her toward the elevators. I watched in total awe and admiration as I imagined them making their way through the mindless lunch-hour bustle of NYC’s Financial District, waiting for them six stories below.

In the waiting room you could hear a pin drop.  It stayed that way until my name was called.

It is impossible for me not to contrast what had happened in the space of three minutes. While most people can bury themselves in the momentary drama of any afternoon, focusing myopically on whatever we feel is the obstacle out to ruin our lives that day, this strong-willed woman manages every waking hour by feeling for clues in her environment, for words and meaning from the few hands that actually know how to communicate them to her.

So, what drama are you managing today?

Entrepreneurs get buried in their “dramas” all the time.   How to increase sales, raise that money, gain market share, be first to market… you name it.

For some, these dramas fuel how they proceed.

Yet your drama usually breaks your focus on what it is that is most important for your business.

That crucial focus on your big picture and goals.


How to stay focused on the important stuff:

  • What’s your end game?  Make sure it is 3-5 years out, and is specific and measurable.  Something you can quantify and monitor.
  • What are your milestones? Break your end game goal into annual target goals.  Again, make them as specific and measurable as possible.
  • What are the top 5 components? For this year only, list out the key parts that must happen, and by when for you to accomplish your Year 1 Milestone.
  • What are your systems and structures? To move forward you must have routines and practices you implement daily.  Tasks to move your Year 1 Milestone forward.
  • How are you managing your breakdowns?  The bigger the goal, the bigger the breakdowns.  Guaranteed.  What do you have in place to manage them when they show up?

Your ability to stay focused, manage breakdowns, and build your company in a way you want is directly correlated to how well you have identified your goal and the importance of achieving it.

Using these steps make this a lot easier and more enjoyable to move your goal forward.

And if you ever doubt your ability to stay focused on what’s most important, remember the deaf-blind woman of New York City who does this every moment of her life or risks dire consequences.


Action Steps for the Week

What is your 5 year plan?  How specific and measurable is it?  In other words, how do you know when you’ve achieved it?

Take that goal and break it down into tangible chunks.  Start with annual milestones.

Then take the first 12 months and break that into quarters.  Then the first quarter into months.

You now have your current month’s action plan.

Don’t forget to create your system to handle breakdowns that will invariably occur along the way.  For example, if you don’t get that client you thought was a done deal, what will you do?

Remember to think six moves ahead with your month’s milestones.