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Recently I was in the middle of a conversation and realized while the person was talking I was thinking about something I really needed to get done and watching the clock as the minutes ticked away.  Every few minutes I had to tune back into the conversation.

The person I was talking with had a genuine need to talk with me and had made it a point to schedule and be available for the call.  I was genuinely interested in what he had to say, it was urgent and important to both of us, yet I found it difficult to FOCUS on what he was saying.

In thinking about how I can improve my focus I thought about how I might be able to apply some of the meeting behaviors I’ve talked about with clients and how I can apply them to one on one meetings, whether they’re in person or on the phone.

  1. Establish the logistics of the call. The call came in an hour before I thought it would because I hadn’t confirmed the time zone and who would place the call.  I’d made the assumption about the time zone and that I’d be placing the call.  Because I had both wrong, I was doing something else when the call came in and wasn’t focused.
  2. Start the call agreeing on the topics and duration of the call. The conversation would have been so much more effective if I would have said, “George, I have a meeting I have to leave for in an hour.  I have these three topics to discuss that should take no more than 10 minutes each.  What are your topics and how long do you want to allocate to each?
  3. Get rid of distractions. Both of us had a series of distractions during the call.  I had the phone on speaker to allow me to continue getting ready to leave for my next meeting in case our call went overtime.  Had I just sat still and focused on the call I could have insured we covered all of the topics in the hour available.
  4. Summarize what was accomplished and the next steps. We talked about a series of steps we would each take, yet 24 hours later, the information I was expecting hasn’t arrived. It would have taken me two minutes to summarize our commitments and I could have easily sent a follow-up EMAIL to confirm my understanding.

Fortunately, I’ll have many opportunities to improve my FOCUS.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.