Why focus is the key to sharpening your cutting edge

Why focus is the key to sharpening your cutting edge

Feel like you’ve lost your mojo? Regaining your focus is the difference between working smart and working hard.

Distraction, fatigue, and spreading yourself too thin are the three most common things that will dull your cutting edge. This is the same cutting edge that makes you different, that makes your clients want to do business with you. The answer to all three issues, in a word, is focus. Here’s how you can sharpen your cutting edge and regain your mojo.

Defeating distraction

Are you a busy person who never seems to get anything done? Advocates of multitasking tell us that by doing everything at once we can be productive. In fact the opposite is true: the more focused you are, the more you actually achieve.

If you’re the type who gets distracted because you fill your mind with all the things you need to do, write a list of tasks in order of priority. Attack each task one-by-one. If you have a big project, break it down into smaller chunks. It’s much easier to tackle your week, your day, your morning by focusing on defeating one task at a time. Don’t forget to bask in the satisfaction that comes from ticking things off the list!

Fighting fatigue

Ecclesiastes 10:10: “If the axe is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength.”

Our work culture still likes to tell us that working late means you’re an important person, that the business can’t function unless you put in the hard yards (at 10pm!). But what are you really achieving when you’re tired? Not very much, the research tells us.

Guess what? You have to stop chopping to sharpen the axe and you can’t sharpen it while you’re still chopping. If you keep on using it, it will only grow duller. To compensate, you start to work harder rather than smarter, leaving no room for innovation, inspiration or ideas.

Sometimes it’s better to leave things until you’ve rested. Come back in the morning with a fresh brain and not only will you find you can do things quicker, you may also see a solution to a problem that your tired brain couldn’t find the night before. When we stop cutting, we rest and recover our cutting edge.

Finding your focus

“The bow that is always strung becomes slack.” —Native American proverb

In addition to physical fatigue, you also need to be aware of mentally spreading yourself too thin. As a business owner it’s common to wear many hats; from minute to minute you could be a salesperson or a bookkeeper, a marketer or a producer. But often this split role affects your focus, diminishes your core business.

Consider outsourcing as a way to regain your focus. Outsourcing will enable you to unburden yourself of the tasks you don’t like doing, or are not so proficient at, and concentrate on what you’re good at for the benefit of the business. It will literally buy you time to rest.

The best time to rest? Before your body makes you slow down. As former US President Abraham Lincoln once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Go sharpen yours—you need that cutting edge.

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