January 22 2016

Keeping a Focus on Your Focus

Seeing the talented husband and wife team behind Greater Good Studio give a talk at Chicago’s Creative Morning series was a great treat right as I wrapped up the development of this new site. One of the points they made that stood out to me was about the value of “finding your focus, and sticking to it.”

It was the sticking to that focus part that caught my attention. Keeping a focus on your focus isn’t something I’ve heard discussed a great deal. And in my experience as an independent developer / small business owner, it’s something that can be much harder to do than it might seem. 

When you work for yourself one of the great universal fears people seem to share is worrying about where the next project might come from. And, from what I can gather from personal experience and talking to others, it doesn’t seem to be a feeling that is dampened by even the good fortune of any kind of sustained success. 

The Danger Zone

I’ve found that one of the most common and unfortunate results of that fear can be taking on projects that fall outside of your focus—whatever that focus might be—because you’re worried a better fit might not come along to fill in an upcoming gap in your schedule. It’s something I’ve done myself, even as I’ve become more specialized and confident in my areas of expertise. 

By default, this leads to a forced shift away from your core skill set and/or values and diverts your professional time, energy, and experience elsewhere. These subtle, but critical shifts in how and where you spend your time (and who you spend it with) can gradually start to reposition you and your business in ways that don’t align with your long term goals. Before you know it, you can find yourself building momentum in a direction you never intended to move in. Creating more opportunities to do more of the work you were less than thrilled about taking on in the first place. It can be a difficult cycle to break if you’re not careful.

Back to the Beginning

The very obvious goal, then, is to first identify your focus and maintain momentum in a direction that fosters it. If looking at that step reveals that you’ve already shifted onto a slightly less focused path, move in the opposite direction by thoughtfully choosing the types of projects you take on and staying passionately committed to your focus along the way. 

I absolutely appreciate that this can be easier said than done. I also realize that for one reason or another it’s not always possible. In my experience, it’s not about doing it 100% of the time, it’s just about striving to put yourself in a position where you’re able to do it more often than not. 

At times it can feel like the longer, more difficult path forward, but I firmly believe that if you can manage to muster the self-discipline, courage, and persistence required to regularly stick to your focus it will lead to good things for you, your portfolio, and ultimately, your clients.