The freedom of working for yourself, working from a home base comes with some risks. Pretty obviously, there are the financial risks inherent in choosing to be more self-reliant, rather than having the comfort of a paycheck provided by an employer. Although these days, with any concept of permanent or even assured long-term employment with any one employer – or even in any one industry – becoming more a folk memory than a lived reality, some of us feel that there is paradoxically more security in being more self-reliant.
But with that self-reliance comes another area of risk, which is the risk of losing focus.
Precisely because we work for ourselves and have no boss to report to, and because we have chosen or found ourselves in a situation where we can pretty much work out our own goals, priorities and opportunities, we can easily find ourselves diversifying to the point where we are not being really productive.
One of the most powerful messages in the recorded interviews I spent a lot time listening to in the past couple of months while working on the Big Biller audiobook, interviews with top billers in the recruiting industry (people who bill a million dollars or more a year), is that all of these high achievers, without exception, are very highly focused. It was so obvious from the interviews that these men and women have crystal clarity about which activities in their day are geared directly to bringing in income and which are more general or peripheral.
Then that links to goal setting and measuring performance against goals.
I’m taking this to heart just now and running a bit of “how focused am I?” test on the professional commitments I have and the ones I’m considering. And about how I spend my days.
I remember once trying to learn as an adult how to play Australian Rules football, having spent my younger days playing rugby. And the guy who was trying, without a lot of success, to teach me saying, “Go for the ball, keep your eye on the ball. It’s when you take your eye off the ball because you’re worried about getting hit that you will get hurt.”
That made sense. Being totally focused on getting to the ball gave me forward movement, more momentum, whereas fear-based hesitation made me vulnerable. Not that I couldn’t or didn’t get hurt when I just focused on the ball – but the coach was right, getting hit and getting hurt turned out to be less likely.
Business, like sport, is a lot about taking risks. Being focused makes the game – and business – a whole lot more enjoyable. And less risky.