Feed your focus

By Lindsay LaNore, ICBA

When I really need to focus, I’ve noticed the process usually starts with decluttering both my mind and my environment. I love the quote, “Starve the distractions. Feed your focus.” To clear my mind before starting a project, I know that I have to be purposeful with my attention. This may include walking away from my desk for a few minutes or ensuring that my desk is cleaned up and clear of diversions.

Inspired by the theme for ICBA LIVE 2020—Bold Vision, Clear Focus—I reached out to ICBA leaders to find out the methods and strategies they use to focus. The responses were interesting.

For Julie Hanson, executive vice president of product and relationship management for ICBA Bancard, it’s all about prioritizing. Hanson sets aside time in her schedule to organize what she needs to accomplish. Without a list of priorities, she says, the many communication channels we all monitor, from social media to email, can derail her train of thought several times an hour.

“I create, review and revise my must-haves—what I must accomplish in a given day. And I refer back to that list to keep me on track,” Hanson says. “If I have to ignore those communication channels, especially social media, for a bit, I do.”

Before embarking on a new project, Mandy Snyder, assistant vice president of online training and compliance for Community Banker University, sets realistic goals. First, she allocates at least 1.5 times the amount of time she thinks it will take to finish the project.

Then she attacks the clutter. She writes down the thoughts that are swirling in her mind, both work-related and personal to-do lists, so that her mind doesn’t wander. “I turn off my Outlook so that I am not distracted by new inbox items,” Snyder says. “Finally, I ensure I have all of my resources laid out on my desk or open on my computer with nothing else around.”

These are all great ideas for starving the distractions. Then it’s a matter of getting started, which can often be the hardest part. I love what Thomas Warren, ICBA’s vice president of communications, recommends for this. For projects that start with a blank document, he says, start by pulling in existing messaging and key points to fill the page right away.

“Then you have something you can start to shape,” he says. “There’s something about the blank page. It can be self-reinforcing and isolating and defeating. Bringing in existing language provides support and is a reminder that I have resources to work with.”

Another great way to feed your focus is to look after yourself. Sleep well, eat well, allow yourself breaks and cut yourself some slack. We’re all different. As Warren says: “Don’t fear the process itself. Mine is nonlinear, but I trust that I’ll end up in a good place.”

Lindsay LaNore is ICBA group executive vice president and chief learning and experience officer