Purpose and priorities

"How can I possibly focus? We've always got too much to do!"

All individuals and teams face this constant struggle. There's so much you want to achieve! So much to improve! But how do you stick to the crucial work and stop yourselves getting seriously overloaded?

Specific ambitious targets definitely improve performance – there’s a wealth of evidence to back that up. They have to be ambitious and compelling to fire up you or the team. So compelling that people will want to perform to their very best to achieve them (but not so unrealistic that people lose heart).

Being ambitious, though, does not mean doing everything for everyone. In fact it’s the opposite.

Good teams and good leaders keep it simple. Focus is key. And having a “what to drop” strategy helps stay on target.

Quick Tips for individuals or teams

The 5 "Why?"s

Reflection (30 minutes)


Staring you in the face is a monstrously long ‘to-do’ list. How do you grab a magic wand and turn it into something more manageable? You have to go back to basics, decide what’s essential and what’s not, and strip out everything that doesn’t have a straight line to the core.

The ‘the 5-why’s process’ is one good way of trimming the list and making life clearer – for yourself and/or your team.

First: make a list of everything you or your team are spending time on.

Next: go through the list and ask “Why?” “To what end?”

You’ll find that many tasks will fall into groups.

Repeat the process as many times as you need to and you’ll end up with the heart of what you’re doing at the moment, and why you’re doing it.

Then ask yourself if you can drop some activities or objectives because they are not as important right now for you to acheive what you want to acheive. The idea is to trim your list to the absolutely essential.

Now you can re-set your primary objectives and re-balance your activities to acheive them.

Key Result Areas

Reflection (30 minutes)


A good way of focusing your effort on what's most important is to write down your 5 really Key Result Areas (KRAs).

Take a step back from daily grind and imagine you have one minute in front of someone really important to you. You have one minute to tell them 5 results that distinguish success from failure for you or your team. What would you say?

Supposing you re-set your priorities to focus first and foremeost on those critical success areas. How would you need to re-set your workload and re-balance your activities to acheive them?


What to drop

Reflection (30 minutes)


Now come the hard decisions. You have decided on your priorities by doing the 5 Why's exercise above, or looking at your Key Result Areas. How are you going to find the time to focus only on these areas?

The first thing to do is take a good look at everything you are doing at the moment and compare it with the results from your 5-Why's or Key Result Areas exercise. Check out what you really need to do to be successful in your priority areas, and start dropping anything that is not central to your success.

If that's not enough, drop everything that's not immediately central.

In the war of opportunities v. resources, finding the balance point is the key. It requires focus, determination and courage. Some people won’t like it and you may need to have some difficult conversations to explain why your own and/or your team focus has changed.

And be careful what you wish for. Your single-minded approach will make it much more likely that you achieve your goals.

You have aimed high. Be sure you have aimed accurately.

Then spell it out for everyone with our clarifying your objectives development exercise.


Training exercise for individuals or teams

Getting it right for customers

Reflection  for individuals (1 hour)

TeamTalk for teams (1 hour)


In the mix, think about what customers want as well as what powers your team. There’s always a trade-off between what you want to do and what others want from you. The top tips development exercise "Getting it right for customers" is a great way to work this out.

.....   See the Getting it Right for Customers Exercise


Clarifying your objectives

Reflection  for individuals (1 hour)

TeamTalk for teams (1 hour)


Use the SMART and compelling objectives approach to focus your work

.....   See the Clarifying Your Objectives Exercise