22 June 2011

Finding Your Focus

Artist: Jaime  Pitarch, Cyclops
ARTIST: Jaime Pitarch, Cyclops, modified eye glasses

Interesting. Weeks ago I encouraged mailing list subscribers to shoot me off a business question that they needed help with. Five readers — all with completely different art practices, levels of self-employment and business types — basically had the exact same issue: not knowing what they should really be focusing on.

The beauty of being an artist is that we're always bubbling at the seams with new ideas, new ventures and new modes of expressing ourselves. We want to do everything because, after all, we are just fabulously passionate people. Back in the day, we would have been regarded as renaissance men and women. And although that term now seems so old school, truly we really are.

At different times in our lives, some may have labelled us as flighty or unfocused because of our creative fancy. Well, my darling honey buns, may you never have taken those words to heart. Exploration is how creative folk grow. There's no value in taking on another's definition of who we really are, so leave the baggage with the carrier and move on.

But in the context of your business, when I speak about focus, I speak of it as a way to prioritize and gain clarity, letting all else follow or drop to the wayside. It is a necessary task that ripples out into every relationship and action your business attempts to make.

So today, for the many of you for whom focus is an issue, I will share a short exercise that should leave you with more confidence on how to proceed.

Find Your Focus in Five Minutes or Less

This exercise works wonders if you need to streamline your skills, services, art projects...etcetera. So choose that one area you need clarity with and let's begin.

1.  Get a pen, a piece of paper and a marker.
I know that some of you are going to ignore this and just attempt to do this exercise in your head. Sigh.... In the words of Mister T, "I pity the fool."

And no, by the way, it won't work.

Do you have any idea how much stuff is running around in my mind while I type this post? Laundry to do, e-mails to check, flyers to make, studio to organize ... you get the picture.

Keeping it in your head (or typing it on your computer) will not work; I don't care if your mind is like Gumby. Get out a pen, a piece of paper and a marker and stop fussing.

2.  List your five greatest hits. (2 mins)
You've accomplished amazing things in the past. Write down your top five accomplishments in point form (e.g., wrote a book, exhibited at fancy-pants museum...).

Next to each point, briefly state what  you learned about yourself and your abilities from that experience (e.g., have follow through, great commitment, strong promoter/organizer...).

Don't over think.
It's not necessary.
Now flip the page over. We've got three minutes to go.

3.  Take an inventory of your talents. 
In point form, list your talents/skills in regards to whatever it is you need clarity with.

For example, I had a client with a very strong and broad range of talents who wasn't quite sure what she should be building her business on. At this stage of the exercise, we made a list of those talents, which would, in essence, be the potential service options her business could provide.

For you, perhaps you're working on a creative project and can't figure out what theme or topic you should focus on. Regardless of what that issue is for you, replace the word "talents" with whatever is more suitable, and write your list down.

4.  Cross out everything that you DON'T LOVE doing.
Use that marker, because we don't want to see what you don't love doing on this list anymore.

It's easy to confuse being really good at something with really loving it. I, for example, am really good at fundraising. But I hate doing it so much, I wish the Rapture would come and swallow me whole.

Again, don't over think. You know in your gut what you could do for hours on end with glee. If it doesn't feel like a pleasure to do, block that sucker off your list tout de suite.

5.  Cross out everything that isn't unique or in demand.
Again, use that marker to cross out anything that everyone and their mother are already doing to death.

Keep things on the list that aren't being done in whatever manner, special approach or perspective you are or would be doing it. It should be something that is needed and that not many folks out there are offering.

You are done.

What's left on the page is what you should really be focusing on because:

  • You excel at it
  • You love doing it
  • It's unique 

After a bit of self-reflection, you may come to realize that the answers were obvious and that there's much to be said for reading The Alchemist, but I digress.

Whether you're starting your business, or have been running one for a while and feel that you're pulled in one too many different directions, this exercise can work as a good starting point to refresh and reboot.

If you're doubting yourself and your abilities, flip that page over and look at your five greatest hits. That's your track record — your highlights — of what you've already accomplished and the awesomeness you developed while doing it. Just remember that now you have the ability, and experience, to do it once again.

What say you, good people?

Looking for help with your creative or healing arts biz?

July 10th – September 17th, 2011: MorenaMedia now offers an on-line version of Don't Get Good at What You Don't Want to Be Doing — a 10-week business building e-course for self-employed artists and healers. Visit our site for course details.
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