Learn How to Focus from the Military

Are you focused or scattered these days? The capacity to stay on task, focused and engaged will ensure that you are maximizing your influence in the workplace. Definitely something you want to be working on, so let me help today by providing a tool from the U.S. Military.

I have a friend who is, by all accounts, an expert in military operations, as well as being a strong leader himself. It is fascinating to listen to him apply lessons from all service branches into the life of leaders and organizations. The other day we got to talking about marksmanship discipline. Marksmanship discipline speaks to the skill set needed to focus fire on the desired target as opposed to being scattered or random with your gunfire. Here was his description:

Marksmanship discipline = accuracy + intentionality + timing + consistency 

“Did you hit (accuracy) what you wanted to hit (intentionality), when you wanted to hit it (timing), every time you hit it (consistency)?”

I’ll use a very brief example of evaluating my last week using this formula so you can imitate and innovate this tool on your own. (Note: Those of you reading who are in our apprenticeship process will know how important imitation is!)

Accuracy: (Did you hit) + Intentionality: (what you wanted to hit)

Accuracy is kind of the big E on the eye chart. The basic question here is did you fire the weapon?  When it comes to leadership, overwhelming schedules, fear, despair, other people and trivial distractions can sometimes keep us from pulling the trigger at all. Intentionality relates to hitting the desired target as opposed to an accidental discharge that results in hitting something, but not exactly what you wanted to hit.

So with regard to accuracy, as I look back on this past week, I would say that overall I “fired” well. I’d give myself a 7 on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being great. I was active and focused with my work for the most part. There were times, however, when I allowed lethargy to set in and did not pull the trigger when I should have, perhaps when I felt a bit overwhelmed with everything going on and spent a bit too much time in the recliner, which actually doesn’t energize me.

With regard to intentionality, I hit what I wanted to hit in the following areas: good decision making, maximized schedule with important lunches and work-related phone conversations, good family activity (took kids to movies), nailed exercise schedule all but 1 day. I “missed” in getting some important writing done and engaging in conversation with my children as much as I would have liked to.

Timing: (when you wanted to hit it) + Consistency: (every time you hit it)

The questions here are: Did I bounce around at the whim of others or allow my priorities to win the day? Did I allow intrusions to steal my day in an unhealthy way? As I look back, I would say that this past week was particularly strong in this area. While I wouldn’t say I hit 100%, I’d say I was strong at 90%. For the most part I achieved what I wanted to in the time frame I wanted to, while also being sensitive to the normal, spontaneous interruptions of the week. I had one unexpected opportunity come my way that involved serving people in need, and I pursued a volunteer opportunity that I believe will be really life-giving.

Based on this quick analysis, my takeaway for this coming week will be to schedule writing time and conversation time with my children, rather than having blurred lines and assume that I will be able to be effective in both areas through my preferred spontaneous norm. It’s the same amount of time, but it will move me from scattered to focused.

Do a similar, quick analysis of your week (or some other area of life), so that you, too, can hit what you want to hit, when you want to hit it, every time you hit it.


Image source: Wikipedia Commons