Teachers in Business

How to Focus

November 02, 2021 Sara Torpey Season 1 Episode 21
Teachers in Business
How to Focus
Show Notes Transcript

Focus is one of those things we all think 'if I only had a little more of that, things would be.______ (insert dream here!).' 

What goes wrong with focus is that we have expectations of what it is, and how it SHOULD be that it can't possibly live up to - and that makes us feel like CONSTANT failures. 

This week on the podcast we're talking about where exactly things are going wrong with YOUR focus. 

Then, I'll share my tried and true recipe for SUCCESSFUL, and more EFFECTIVE focus starting NOW.   

Hello, hello, hello, welcome to the podcast. This week we're going to talk about Focus. Focus is one of those things, right? It's one of those things. It's one of those things that we all think at some point, God, if I only had a little bit more of that things would be, you know, blank space insert dream here kind of thing, right? Everything would be better if I was more focused. You there's a lot that goes wrong in there, though. And part of what goes wrong with our focus is that we have expectations of it that don't actually match with what it actually is. And we feel like it should do things for us that it can't possibly live up to. So those things mixed together make us feel like we are constantly failing and focus. And that's just simply not true. So this week, we're going to talk about where exactly things go wrong with focus. And then I'm going to share with you a little about my my tried and true recipe, my my most effective suggestions for keeping your focus and really using it to your advantage and having it serve you instead of beat you over the head, which would be nice.


Before we do that I want to share one of my favorite client wins from last couple of weeks, I took two weeks, I took last week off because I didn't want to have to record a podcast with my kids home for the Easter break. It was just too many moving parts and too many people and too many things going on. So I took a moment off. And I'm back this week. But what I wanted to share is one of my clients,

we just finished the first round of my teachers in business mastermind. And at the end, I had them fill out some feedback for me about you know, what they got out of the group and how it did work. For them, it was 12 weeks. And you know, turned out to be a really fun group of five people, I have a strong belief in keeping groups small so that we can all collaborate really effectively. And one of the pieces of feedback I got from one of my clients in the group was that she had changed her business more in three months in our 12 weeks than she had in five years. And I know for a fact that during our time together, she got her first client in this new part of her business. And that's the first of many, many to come. And it was a super fun thing to be able to be a part of, but really important for her. Because what she walked away with was a sense of purpose and clarity about who she serves, how she serves them, and why it matters. She also walked away with some skills. She's a great problem solver, she's teacher,

 but she walked away with think with some new perspective on how to solve problems that come up in business, one step at a time without anything being a disaster, right. And now she and her business partner doing all kinds of new and interesting things as a result, which is super fun to see. So I am in the process of launching the second round of my teachers in business mastermind I just opened it up on Friday. And it is once again going to be a very small group, our focus, this round is going to be on taking responsibility for what we create in our business, which means the things that work and the things that don't. But like working from really a strong sense of power, and then also really stepping in to being a business owner capital B, rather than someone who has a business and the mindset and actions of someone who truly is the CEO. So the mastermind is going to start the first week in May, and there are going to be six spots. And if you are interested in grabbing one of them, you should do it sooner than later the first round, it just took a week to fill up. So I already have a couple conversations with people on the books that might want to be a part of it. And I'm going to talk to them this week. And if you'd like to do that, you can come on over to my Facebook group and see the posts in there about it. You can also just send me an email sara@torpeycoaching.com. Or you can you know reach out on LinkedIn or wherever you might want to connect. 


So let's go to focus now that we're here. So one of the things that I want to start with is that we have a lot of preconceptions about what focus is and what it should do for us. And I think one of the most effective ways to start to reimagine what we think of focus is by redefining it for yourself, I love to do this. I do this often with words. I find myself you A lot. And then I'm like, oh, does that mean what I think it means? Maybe not. For me, I often start by going to the dictionary because dorky teacher, and that's where I begin, I also spent a bunch of years working for Britannica, and they own Merriam Webster. So I happen to know a bunch of the people that work there and love them. And so you know, Merriam Webster tends to be my go to so this morning, as I was sitting down to write this episode, I busted out Merriam Webster on my computer and looked up focus. And what I found were a couple of really interesting things. The first is that the first two definitions are that focus is a point of concentration, or a center of activity, attraction or attention. Another way you can define focus is as directed attention. And a third is a state or condition, permitting clear perception or understanding. Now, if you were to sit down and think about what you define focus to be void, any of those things come into play. The one that really speaks to me here is this idea of a point of concentration. It is a moment of concentration, a small period, a point, like in math, we talk about points, and then we talk about collections of points make a line, it's not a line of concentration, it's not something you're following for hours and hours on end, it's one point it's one spot. So if you were to sit down and write down all the things that you think of when you think of focus, I'd be curious to know what comes out for me. What came up when I sat down, was that if I'm focused, I'm concentrating 100% of the time. And even just working back to the definition, that is not the truth.


No one can concentrate 100% of the time, not me, not you, not anybody, not the most focused humans out there. The other thing that came up, and I was surprised when I did, my definition was that it means everything I want to get done on my list is checked off. That has nothing to do with focus. But I think we walk around with this conception that if we're focused, we get everything done. And that's not an actual correlation, like one is not related to the other, if we're focused, we might just get one thing done, doesn't have anything to do with the quantity of work. And the other thing I wrote down was that focused means paying attention to one thing for a period of time. And that may or may not also be true, right? It is directed attention. But that doesn't mean other things aren't going on, it doesn't mean that you're focused on one thing at the exclusion of everything else, like I live in a house with dogs and kids and husband and stuff at all times. And if you are a parent, or a dog, parent, or a spouse, or any of those things, you know that sometimes focus just can't be one thing at a time. And that's okay. But I think if we, we really consider how we want to define focus. For me, what I came back to, was that most of the actions and attention I'm spending most of the time and energy is centered on my one main goal. It's very different from what I was defining it as before. I'm focused, if most of the things I'm doing forward my goal for the moment that my goal in my business is to be as useful to as many human beings as possible to help teachers succeed in business. If I'm doing that, and all the things I'm doing, move towards that and forward that goal, then I'm focused, which feels a million times better right off the bat. The second thing I think, after we define focus, after you define it for yourself is to really think about our expectations of focus. I think what we saw in my definition is I have unrealistic expectations. Like I think focused is concentrating 100% of the time, and that's just nuts. But I think it also has helped me to think about focus in terms of what my expectations for other people are. Like, I was a classroom teacher. I taught middle schoolers, I taught elementary kids, I teach college kids now. I have school aged kids. What are my expectations of their I will tell you, it's not nearly as what's the word I'm looking for as stringent as my expectations for me. If I give my kids something new to do that's challenging, I don't expect them to sit there for an hour and bang through it. It's just not what they're going to do. They're going to spend five minutes, think about it, spend five minutes, think about it, come back to it, spend 10 minutes, like we're going to touch it a lot. My husband, my son had a project to work through last week, he did something at school that he shouldn't have, he had to redo it. It took us a couple of days. But once he got closer to the end, he did more because he could see it was almost there. He was more focused once the momentum was there for him. So but I think we did it in you know, three or 415 minute chunks, like I didn't expect him to do it all at once. That's, that's, that's just not reasonable. He's six. So if you think about what your expectations for others are, even if it's your spouse, or people that you work with, or clients, I don't expect adults ever to sit with me and listen to me talk on zoom for presentation or lesson that I'm teaching college kids, I don't ever expect anybody to concentrate for more than an hour. Like I don't expect me to concentrate on zoom and watch a presentation for more than an hour. It's just not how my brain functions. It's not I don't think how most of us function I want to stand up after an hour. So what are you expecting of yourself in terms of focus that you wouldn't expect of other people? Take a little time and think about how there's a mismatch there probably. This morning, I wrote my notes out on paper, which I don't usually do, because Google Docs decided it didn't work this morning. So Alright, and then I think there are some simple actions to take to set yourself up for success. So for me, this is the list. Okay, so there's a handful, I think there's 123456. So the first one is to know your goal. I know that, you know, if you've listened to this podcast at all, if you're in my group, if you're any of my places, you know that I am a strong believer in having one goal at a time. Like just one. One business one goal. It makes focus in choosing what you're doing and making sure the actions you're taking are aligned to your goal. a crap ton easier. Because if you have four goals, there's a lot of actions and then how are you choosing which one to take in the moment like, Yeah, sounds kind of painful. So that's number one. Number two, is to really be aware of how doing new things taxes, your focus, when you are planning to create something new, you need more space than you think. It's like for me, I start thinking about the next podcast episode. On Wednesday, or Thursday of a week. I like let it play around in the back of my brain, I write down a couple of notes. I push it around here and there. Sometimes I sit down and try to write it on Friday and never works, because I'm never ready. And then by Monday, I'm able to like sit down and write out my notes. But I need time to form each one in my brain. I'm used to doing a podcast I'm 21 episodes in. Imagine what it takes the first time, you need more space to think when you're creating something new than you realize. And what happens is when we sit down and we give ourselves an hour to do this brand new thing, and it doesn't work out or like Oh God, if only I could focus, we'll need to actually are focused, do you need more time? Right? The third thing is to take those big projects and break them into smaller pieces. I know we have all heard this, this is not new. It is not life or it's not, you know, like earth shattering. But we all do it where you're like you put something on your list that is the size of Godzilla. And then you're like, Oh, I don't think I have that much focus to go around today. Okay, don't do that. One of the things I tell clients all the time, and I know it helps a ton. It's something I do for myself too, is to write down the first two steps. That's what goes on your list. So look at whatever project you're trying to focus on. And think like, Okay, what are the first two steps? That's it. And once you've done the first two steps, think okay, what are the next two steps? Just think two steps at a time. You don't have to think About the whole thing at once. Sometimes it's just too big. And we think we have to outline the whole project before we can start. Sometimes it's also too big to do that way, sometimes we just need to start, the next thing to do is to use your timer. That's number four. For me, the timer really matters. So, when you're using your timer, think about short blocks. Like I know I said a couple minutes ago, one of the way to focus is to give yourself more space. But a lot of times, once you've had the space, what you're going to do is not going to take as long as you think, like, what I do a lot of the time is I think about the podcast episode, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday over the weekend. And then on Monday, most of the time, I'm ready. I sit down at my desk and I set the timer for 15 minutes and I write the episode. And I'm done. And I'm ready to record, I don't need as much time as I think I do. So often, if we just sit down and set a timer for 10 minutes or 15 minutes, we can get a tremendous amount done. Because we can we can get our heads around focusing for that amount of time. Right, I can do really focused work for 15 minutes, that I am that I'm starting to be pressed. But that's a good place to start. Right. And it's remember, in another part of this, I think I have this is number six I'll move around, is to think of focus as a muscle. It is really important to think about this as something you flex. But we don't continually walk around in a state of flex, right? Like that's not if we were like doing bicep curls, we wouldn't hold it like that all day, that would hurt eventually. So if you're thinking about focus as a muscle, it's something you build up. But it's also something that you can overtax, and it can get sore like think of those days where you have like huge full calendar, in your on I don't know, I have days where I'm on like six or seven hours of zoom. And I get to the next day and I'm sort of like ah, like out in outer space, because I really overtaxed my focus the day before and I'm having a hard time catching up. It's like my focus muscle is sore. The last thing I will say that sets you up for success is to take breaks willingly and be nice to yourself about it.


Those are two important parts, like not even just the take breaks willingly, but they'll be nice to your part about it matters. Okay. You can push yourself and slog through for eight hours and get nothing done. But you're gonna walk away and not be kind to yourself. If you took 15 minute breaks here and there. If you took 20 minutes to take a walk, if you got up from your desk and just like walked around the house for a little while, you probably get more done. Because you need your brain to like take a break, walk away, we would do the same thing with kids, right? If my kids are getting frustrated, I have them get up and go do something else for a while. kids in my class kids in my house, go do something else for a bit, come back to it. Take a break. But then don't be like oh my god, I shouldn't have taken that break. You needed it. Your brain needed it. Your body needs it. It's fine. It's normal. That's a human thing to me. So take the break, and then be nice about it. And come back when you're ready. You'll be ready. I promise you won't be like no moving to Tahiti. That's it, I'm done. That's not going to happen. Okay. So you have redefined focus. You've thought about expectations. you're setting yourself up for success. And then I think the last thing that we don't do that really helps our focus is to ask for help. I know that asking for help is not necessarily like a direct focus thing. Like we feel like focus has to be like the laser beams coming out of our eyeballs to concentrate. But asking for help is about getting outside perspective, first of all, because so often we have so many things going around in our brains, that having some outside perspective to help us shift and sort through there really helps us to clean the slate. Right. And then we can focus. That's a really useful tool. You have friends for that you have colleagues for that you have a coach for that. That's what I do with clients. I help them sift through the stuff so that they know where to focus every week. They walk away every week with a plan. super handy. The other reason asking for help really Helps, is because it's the way you get to take the breaks, to create time to concentrate to shift things off your plate, it's what you do to make the space you need to do really good chunks of focus. There are times where I have to ask my husband for help or a friend or something, to take something off my plate, there are things that I let go of, in my other business in this one in my other roles, because it's like, okay, there's too many things, I have to figure out how to do this differently to create more space for myself. And that's really a huge benefit to focus. Because sometimes there's something that's really draining our energy. And if we ask for help with it, including someone else in there makes a huge difference. You know, you have things like that right now, we all do. Okay, so that's quite a bit about focus. And it's a really good start. 


So if you're struggling, and you're beating yourself up about focus, now's the time to stop. Not being focused, 100% of the time is normal. That's what we all do. And it's okay. It's not the expectation. Decide what your expectation actually is, like, for me, if I get to the end of the week, and I have 70% of my to do list checked off, I feel really good about myself. Like, that's my expectation as I get most of it done. Not all of it, not even close. And then decide if, if and how you're going to ask for help. set yourself up for success, but then use your resources. And if one of the resources you want, as a coach, I'm happy to talk to you about that. Like focus is a big part of what I do with clients. I help them to simplify, I help them focus and I help them to grow. Like that's what I do. And we really do hone in on that one goal at a time and taking the actions that match to it. If you're feeling like things are all over the place, and you're really testing your focus all the time, and you don't know how to change that. I can help. I promise. You can make lots of progress in a short period of time, with just some simple adjustments. So if you'd like to talk about focus, I'm here for you. And if you use some of these ideas, and you want to tell me about it, feel free, just send me a message. I'd love to hear how focus goes for you. And that's it for the week. I'll see you all next week. Bye!