Focus Needs Buffers and Free Time

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb

This is my first day off in about three weeks. A client has been preparing a proposal and presentation for a significant opportunity that they have been invited to compete for and between that and existing obligations it’s been hectic. It’s more clear than ever that focus needs buffers: letting administrative tasks pile up too long causes problems, so does a lack of free time to reflect and learn from experience.

Minimize Work In Progress: Finish–Or Drop–Old Tasks First

I spent the day reading a book I was given “Things We Think About Games” by Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball that contains this paragraph in a chapter written by John August entitled “Seven Lesson Learned from World of WarCraft” (a lightly edited version of his earlier “Seven Things I learned from World of WarCraft.“)

1. Kill Injured Monsters First

The real world may not have druids and paladins but it’s chock full of monsters. At any given moment there may be one monster that looms larger than all of the others, who clearly needs to be attacked. Before you strike, look around for injured monsters–the half finished tasks that probably only need a few more minutes to complete. If you don’t deal with them now, they will be a constant distraction, and may eventually come back stronger.

Focus Needs Buffers: Dan Sullivan’s Buffer Day Model

This reminded me of the concept of free, focus, and buffer days from Dan Sullivan’s “The Great Crossover.”

  • Focus Days:  you work with undivided concentration on key business activities.
  • Free Days: time you spend to relax and recharge with family and friends, no business activity.
  • Buffer Days: time you spend cleaning up, preparing, running errands, and otherwise make your focus days more effective.

Taking the time to kill or complete half-finished tasks may make your focus days more effective.

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