Are You Free to Focus? (Part 3: Cutting)

The past few weeks, we’ve been reviewing some of the highlights of Michael Hyatt’s new book Free to Focus.

If you missed the introduction or our discussion of stopping, be sure to go back to read those posts. They’ll provide helpful context for what we’re discussing this week.

Image of "Free to Focus" books and the book hashtag #FreetoFocusBookImage supplied by Michael Hyatt and Company

Once you’ve made the effort to stop and get an sense of what you should really be devoting yourself to, you proceed to “cutting” what distracts you from these aims. For cutting, Hyatt suggests three strategies.

1. Eliminate

You might be able simply to “eliminate” commitments that dilute your focus (93–115).

Here you recognize that you aren’t superman (or superwoman) and don’t have the limitless capacity God does to focus on everything that comes into your awareness. Every time you say “yes” to something, you implicitly say “no” to something else.

So you take responsibility for saying “yes” to the right things. And you work at seasoning the necessary corresponding “nos” with as much grace and helpfulness as you can imagine.

2. Automate

What can’t be eliminated you think about “automating” (117–38). Automated activities take less of your focus away from where you really want to be putting it.

As Hyatt conceives of it, “automation” might take any of several forms. This might mean:

  1. Developing certain habits. For example, you might work out a morning routine that gets you dressed and off to your writing space while leaving you less frazzled by attention-hijacking news about the latest political mess or research initiative you might have a real but only tangential interest in.
  2. Creating templates. If you find yourself reproducing the same kind of information (e.g., in email), that makes a great candidate for templating. Then, the next time you need it, simply drop the templated information into the new setting, edit as needed, and sidestep having to focus on recreating what you’ve already done.
  3. Documenting workflows or processes. If you can reduce a complex series of steps to an outline of what you do (e.g., a checklist), you can then follow those steps yourself to avoid missing something. You can also—if applicable—pass this documented workflow off to someone else to supervise.
  4. Leveraging technology to do by itself work that you had been doing. Examples might include email filtering or moving information from one place to another.

3. Delegate

What you can’t eliminate or automate, Hyatt asks you next to consider for “delegation” to others (139–60).

Of the three parts of “cutting,” this one might be most challenging to apply in biblical studies unless you’re in an administrative role (e.g., dean, chair) or you’re a student whose work puts you in an administrative capacity in that context (e.g., some church work scenarios).

In any case, we can’t all do all things better than everyone else. Consequently, you might do well to reflect on what you do but would rather not and that someone else might be able to do better—and perhaps even enjoy.

Conclusion

As with stopping, the three “cutting” actions form a cycle that you walk through recursively.  As you gain greater clarity on where you should be putting your attention, you can also get better clarity on what distracts you from doing so. And you can take steps to stop yourself from getting sidetracked by that distraction.

What do you need to cut? What strategy will you use to cut it?

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