Management Matters: Focus on the Most Important


How do you decide what to focus on?

Some people focus on what they have – those are the ‘glass half-full’ people. Some people focus on what is missing and those are the ‘glass half-empty’ folks.

Very few people however focus on the glass. If you are spending your time on getting things done then when Friday afternoon rolls around, while you may have been busy, it’s possible that you have not moved the most important things forward.

Here are some things that will help you focus on what is important, rather than getting caught up those things that appear urgent, but don’t really more your forward in any meaningful way:

Name the Goal – Creating a vision of where you’d like to be next month, year, or in three years helps you determine the things that are really important in the day-to-day. When you know how daily tasks move you toward where you want to be, there is a better chance that you will be able to focus and get the most important things done.

Chose 3 – Select three things that are the critical, essential tasks of the day. They should be the three things that need to be completed before you leave work, upon penalty of death! (OK, not really but you know what I mean.) Ask yourself to define the 3 most important items on your ‘to-do’ list.

Value Focus – After you have defined your top 3 items for the day, determine how much value they provide to you, to others, and to your organization. Compare long term with short term value and see which gets more of your attention.

Timing – Another way to figure out the importance of what you are doing is to ask is the task will make a difference next week, at the end of the month, year, or in 5 years. If it won’t, you may be sacrificing the long term for the short term.

First Thing – Start the day working on the most important things. Interruptions can always pop up later and throw you off track. If you dig into those most important tasks first thing, you have a better chance of getting them accomplished before the afternoon arrives along with the unforeseen events that distract you.

Know Your Biorhythms – Most of us know when we have the best and most energy of the day. If you are a morning person, handle the most challenging items on your list in the morning. If you have more energy in the afternoon, try to time the challenging tasks for the afternoon. It may not always be possible but if you can schedule harder tasks when you naturally have more energy to focus and execute, you’ll be able to knock off those critical items in no time.

Sometimes simply increasing your awareness about how you spend your time is enough to improve your focus on what is really important. When you use the majority of your time doing what’s most important to, it creates the added value that everyone is always talking about.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management training and development consulting practice that specializes in developing human resources in the areas of leadership and management training, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 25 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

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