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The One Thing I Learned From Jerry McGuire

The One Thing I Learned From Jerry McGuire
Focus- The One Thing I Learned From Jerry McGuire

You had me at ‘Hello’. What a corny movie. But I was thinking about what the character in the movie Jerry McGuire is forced to do, and as a result allows him to succeed.

It was focus.

If you remember in that movie Jerry is a struggling agent for athletes and finds himself losing all his clients bar one, Cuba Gooding Jnr [the only thing holding that movie together]. So what does this force Jerry to do?

Focus all his energy into this one project; his only client. Even though there is a bit of luck involved, Jerry finds the success he was looking for in putting everything he had into one thing, professionally.

The Unstoppable Power of Focus

This reminds me of a post from Brian Kim over a year ago called The Unstoppable Power of Focus. He uses the example of Google focusing on becoming THE search engine and then later finding other avenues to conquer – advertising, email etc.

Because Google excelled on one level, they were able to step up and do something else. Brian suggests this is possibly the only way to move up. Create a solid step by focusing on succeeding at it and then building on that step.

Now let’s say you don’t focus and skip from subject to subject. It’s the same as you building half a step and destroying it. Then building another step halfway and then destroying it.

Looking back at Jerry, he had only one option and that was to make a success out of Cuba Gooding Jnr. When he did that he found clarity and could move on to the other things he felt were important – Renee Zellweger for example – and building his sporting agency.

focus target

Where To Put Your Focus

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The most obvious reason some of us lack this kind of focus is that we are trying to build different things; basically multi-tasking projects. But how do you succeed in one thing if a lot of your time is focused on various others?

The short answer is You Can’t. However, I have a quick formula that can create focus from all the projects and distractions you want to keep in your life.

Focus = Stability + Time + Motivation

Instead of going head first into your chosen task and gutting it out poor and hopeful, you can give yourself a platform to comfortably go after your real goals.

The first step is creating Stability. This is usually financial stability. Why are we talking about money? Because once you have a stable level of income of which you can live off, you can spare time; and time is crucial to focus.

Stability = Money Earned – Money Needed

If this results in a positive number, you’re good.

What I did was create a minimum budget. Admittedly it was a really rough estimate that I’ve kept in the back of my mind, but I established what I really needed to be comfortable financially. Once I know how much I need to make and how much time it takes to make it, I can see how much free time I actually have.

Try Earning a Degree in Financial Stability – [YahooFinance]

Time = 24 Hours – Hours Working

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It’s obvious but look at what time you have left after work. For many people ‘work’ isn’t what they want to focus on. You may have a dream of working on something you love, or creating that masterpiece in your spare time.

Once you have all this spare time to pursue those dreams, you can focus 100% on them for certain periods of the day. e.g: Work 8 hours, 2 hours blogging.

So there we have two very simple equations that, I think, are very important. To me there is no point in working if you can’t pursue the things you really want to do and build something else.

Work out how much you need to work and, if you like, pillage the rest. If you’re saving, budget that in there also. If you like to go out every weekend, budget that. How much must you work to get that number? How much free time are you left with?

Try the 50-30-20 Rule [StevePavlina]

Motivation

That leaves us with the final part of the formula. This is usually the trickiest part but is the real catalyst for getting focused. The question you must ask yourself is: What are you going to get out of it? and also What are you getting out of it?

The first question looks to the future, your goal when it’s finished. The second wants you to think about the immediate pleasures and gains. You should be able to give different answers for both.

For instance your goal may be to create a successful blog. You want to be able to live comfortably from the residual income of your blog. That’s the final goal. However, while building your blog, you could say that your immediate gain is learning more about a topic you love.

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Other immediate motivations may be networking with like-minded people or sharing your knowledge with others.

The thing about motivation is that it requires action. You can have a good idea of what motivates you but still not act on it. This is where you need to factor in another element. Something that will force you to act.

Motivation = Gains x Necessity

You can’t only want something, you have to need it. When you realize why you want to do something and what you are getting and are going to get out of it, you create a necessity.

Take those reasons and immediate gains and multiply them by how much you need them. If I am writing a blog and I enjoy learning more about what I’m writing about, I don’t just want to learn more – I need to learn more. It is imperative to my blog’s success that I learn as much as I can because it builds credibility and makes for better content.

Now that I have the motivation, time and stability, I can focus.

Also check out Lifehack’s motivational posts.

Back To Jerry

A personal twist on the motivational side of things: ‘Show my the money’ isn’t a big deal to me. I’m not motivated a lot by money. Generally, I will earn as much as I need and enjoy my free time.

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But let’s think back to the movie and Jerry’s nemesis: Jay Mohr. What does he do? He gloats and takes Jerry’s clients. Jerry sees him succeed. Does this motivate Jerry? It should.

Seeing someone in your field succeed in the ways you want to is motivational. You can be defeatist, if you must, but what you should really do is think, ‘It can be done!’

I have my own Jay Mohr. It’s Leo Babauta from ZenHabits.net – he’s a machine and I see his posts all over the place, including here at Lifehack. This is a great motivator for me.

Not only do I see competition and inspiration, but I see that you can get a lot of work out into the public and build a name. It’s that ‘just Google me’ kind of mentality. I want Craig Childs followers! Yes, I can be that vain.

Focus

To truly succeed in anything, you need to focus on it. Focus on your goals and what you need to achieve them. What do you need to do so you have time to pursue those goals? What can you do so that you stay motivated?

These are personal questions that can’t really be generalized for everyone; but hopefully thinking about how to free up your time and focus on what you really want will put you in the right direction.

P.S. Sorry to make everyone think of Tom Cruise.

More by this author

Craig Childs

Craig is an editor and web developer who writes about happiness and motivation at Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

This is why setting priorities is so important.

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3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

1. Eat a Frog

There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

2. Move Big Rocks

Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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3. Covey Quadrants

If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

    The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

    Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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    You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

    Getting to Know You

    Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

    In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

    These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

    More Tips for Effective Prioritization

    Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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