Brian Balfour explains he has come very close to a few very big wins in his career, but never turned them into “home runs” because of focus – or the lack of thereof.

Focus isn’t about being short sighted, nor sticking to the same thing for a really long time. To him, focus is basically zooming out, then in, then out again:

  1. Identifying one longer term meaningful goal
  2. Distilling the most important thing we need to be doing right now to make progress towards that goal
  3. Doing that one thing for a long enough period to get information/data
  4. Editing the longer term goal based on the information we receive

When we focus we move faster, because we spend less time deciding, the decision coming down to: which option contributes to our focus the most? We also learn more, because we can dig to the deeper layers to come up with good insights. As we learn more and are able to iterate quickly, we achieve more. It helps us building confidence reinforcing the cycle of focus which finally makes us more valuable.

Focusing can be uncomfortable because we will always have multiple options, never have perfect information, and never be 100% certain in any of the options. The answer to this fear of missing out is to be lean enough to iterate on our learnings and finally get to the right answer. Sticking on a focus is also challenging because there is always pressures from many directions that try to side track us. Do not under estimate the execution difficulties of those paths and maintain our focus. But remain at ease with changing it if our choice doesn't prove it right.

To conclude, even if we pick the initial wrong focus, the act of focusing produces a higher likelihood that we will pick the right focus next time based on what we learned. So using a repeatable system will help us. Balfour suggests:

  1. Absorb available information and distill it into a leading focus hypothesis
  2. Identify the assumptions in that hypothesis
  3. Identify a way to measure progress against those assumptions
  4. Set a time period to try and make progress against those assumptions
  5. Extract the learnings
  6. Feed the learnings back into the first step

A smart application of the OKR methodology might be an answer.

Source: http://www.coelevate.com/essays/why-focus-wins