208-376-1701 bryan@bryanyager.com
First a quote: “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Good morning and Happy Monday!

Ok, now that I have your attention, stop thinking whatever you were thinking. I’ll explain what a schwerpunkt is in a moment. For now, please know I write this article, not as a practicing expert on the topic, but as a graduate-level student struggling to practice that which I know (and have been teaching for years).

Knowing, and doing what we know, are two very different things. We all know we should eat better and exercise more. Who doesn’t know a typical person should eat less than 2,000 calorie per day, eat more vegetables and less sweets? Or who doesn’t know we should all strive to get in 10,000 steps a day, or to simply be active and exercise more?

The problem isn’t knowing… it is doing what we know! Today’s topic falls into that category for me personally.

One of my personal time management challenges is staying focused on my priorities. I often face a minute-by-minute battle to keep the main thing, the main thing. I am easily distracted by what I’ll call “shiny objects.” And trust me, it doesn’t take much of a shine to cause my eyes and mind to wonder. (I just now noticed the cactus plant in my window needs to be watered.) Now, where was I? Oh yeah, writing this missive about staying focused and keeping the main thing, the main thing.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

I propose it all begins with of us knowing what our personal and professional schwerpunkts are. (Pronounced: shvârʹ-po͝ongkt) Schwerpunkt is a German word that doesn’t have a direct and accurate translation in English. In essence, it means “main focus, effort or focal point.” Others have defined it as a “concentration of effort point” or “central point of attack.” It also can mean “center of gravity.”

Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general and military theorist, defined it in military terms to mean: concentrating maximum effort and force at an enemy’s weakest spot.

This concept might be wise for all of us to consider as we think about managing our time, effort, energy, and focus. Asking ourselves, “How do we apply our ‘main effort’ towards our personal and professional ‘focal points’ and/or objectives each day, even when threatened by our weakest points and shiny objects?”

I’m translating this to mean a focus on our most important tasks as a priority, rather than the menial tasks that distract most of us all day, every day.

Here are a few tips for your consideration and experimentation:

  • Find time to think strategically – many of us suffer from what I call “super-doer syndrome” … an almost uncontrollable desire to be “doing” something all the time. This syndrome can put us into a reactionary downward spiral of continuously fighting fires when we should be proactively thinking about fire prevention. Without putting some effort into fire prevention, you simply get more fires to fight.
  • Ruthlessly Prioritize – remember that tasks can be urgent, but that urgency doesn’t necessarily mean important. In fact, when it comes to how we spend our time, urgency is often the enemy of importance. Know what is truly important when it comes to your priorities and objectives.
  • Ask yourself tough questions:
    – What is my highest priority today? (Or this week, this month, or even, in this meeting?)
    – What is the best use of my time right now?
    – Why am I procrastinating what I know is my highest priority right now?
  • Hide from shiny objects – make it more difficult to be distracted by shiny objects; several ideas you may consider:
    – Turn off Outlook, Google, or other email sources during your “productive” time slots.
    – Schedule “meetings with yourself” and go to a conference room to avoid interruptions.
    – Publish “office hours” when you’re available to visit with team members.
    – Start early, or stay late, do you your priority work when the office is quiet.
  • Schedule your priorities – this is a proactive way of making room for the highest priorities in your life (be they personal or professional). Haven’t had a date with your spouse, family, or friends lately? The simple solution is to make a date with them and put it on your calendar. Treat them just as you would an important client or even your boss.

All of us should know what our schwerpunkts are every single day. And, our priorities should never remain secondary for long.

I must run now… my cactus needs to be watered. 😊

How will you live, love, or lead, differently, or better, this week?


Bryan Yager

“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”

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Bonus Quotes:

  • “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.” – Steve Jobs
  • “Nobody’s life is ever all balanced. It’s a conscious decision to choose your priorities every day.” – Elisabeth Hasselback
  • “There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing.” – Brian Tracy
  • “Our life is the sum total of all the decisions we make every day, and those decisions are determined by our priorities.” – Myles Munroe
  • “If you continually ask yourself, ‘What’s important now’ then you won’t waste time on the trivial.” – Lou Holtz
  • “The reason most goals are not achieved is that we spend our time doing second things first.” – Robert J. McKain
  • “Learn how to separate the majors and the minors. A lot of people don’t do well simply because they major in minor things.” – Jim Rohn
  • “The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.” – Bob Hawke
  • “Set aside time to plan how you will spend your time. Think about what’s most important. Then do those things first.” – Frank Bettger
  • “Like it or not, the world evolves, priorities change and so do you.” – Marilu Henner
  • “When you have too many top priorities, you effectively have no top priorities.” – Stephen Covey