When was your last “focus” day?

In my efforts to be responsive, I often load my calendar with as many client meetings, presentations, and speaking opportunities as possible.  Unfortunately, this leaves my schedule sliced-and-diced and my productivity flagging.  The concept of a “focus” day has helped me fight back.

Without a doubt, clients drive our business and no doubt drive yours.  Being available to talk to clients, answer their questions, meet with them, and speak at their events is essential to nurturing loyalty and a healthy pipeline.  If I have three to five client meetings over the course of the day, I’m thrilled.

But it comes at a cost. My schedule ends up broken into a half dozen small chunks of time, often in increments of 15-45 minutes.  Sure, you think you can do something important in that amount of time, but invariably it gets consumed with “small rocks”…the filler stuff that isn’t terribly important…like email, voicemail, small talk.

The fact is, transitioning from one activity to another takes time.  It’s the whole reason research has shown that multi-tasking is a myth.  We can only do one thing at a time, and the more often we switch activities, the more brain power and energy we burn with inefficient switching time.

Getting to the “big rocks”. We know that greatness comes from consistently investing time in the “big rocks”, the stuff that matters most, but I find that I sometimes need 15-20 minutes just to get my head around whatever it is I’m doing.    I mean, there is just no way I can go from a sales presentation to writing a blog post to a speaking engagement all in the same hour.

I’m truly better off just catching up on a few emails, walking and reading for 15 minutes, or making a couple of phone calls.  That said, I was finding that 2 or 3 weeks could go by with every day feeling like this.  I would be excited about the client activity, but mentally exhausted and worried that I wasn’t spending any time doing other things that really matter…like thinking, planning, or writing.

The answer… The solution came to me as I reflected back on a practice I used to love at one of my prior companies…“no meeting Friday”.  We had so many meetings in that business, that I finally declared Fridays a meeting-free day so people could just get stuff done.  I remember loving that day!

So, I set out to do something similar: block one day each week for no meetings, to focus on the big rocks.  The problem: figuring out which day that should be!  Client needs and opportunities could spring up any time.

Finally, I figured I would let clients determine it for me.  Each week on my schedule I take client requests as they come.  The last day without a request on it becomes “focus” day.  I don’t accept any further meetings on that day, unless they are urgent or hugely important…and even then I make sure to protect at least half the day.

Knowing that there will be at least one day each week with no meetings is a huge source of renewal for me.  I don’t have to go anywhere, worry about directions or be on time…I can just FOCUS on what matters most to the business and what adds value to our existing clients.  Reading, writing, walking, prayer, thinking, creating, prospecting…it’s a powerful day with fewer transitions and more meat on the bone.

And, if a challenge or opportunity arises that requires careful thought and reflection, I know there will be time to dig into it.

How do you create focus without jeopardizing responsiveness?  I appreciate your thoughts!