Startup Tip 62: Narrow your focus and concentrate on what is really important

There’s a process I have been using for a number of years which I find quite useful for goal setting. I call it my 3 month focus.

I devised it originally because I was having so many ideas, all the time, that it was causing me to get distracted and I wasn’t using my time productively. I needed a simple way to narrow my focus and concentrate on what was really important.

I decided to only allow myself to focus on 3 major outcomes for each 3 month period.

Here’s how I did it:

Why set a 3 month focus?

The reason I use a three month focus is:


  • It’s a short enough time frame that I can set goals and see them achieved as well as feel the required urgency to get them done.
  • It allows me to evaluate my direction and adjust if necessary every three months. Therefore I can take advantage of new opportunities while remaining focused.
  • It narrows my attention so i can make progress in the most important areas. No more than 3 main outcomes/projects at a time
  • I also have a 3 month evaluation to make sure the rest of my life (apart from work) is on track too, but more of that in another post

How I choose what to focus on

I’ve developed a template I use every 3 months that asks me the important questions I want to evaluate. You can download it here.

I start off by listing all the projects/opportunities that are currently floating around in my mind including those I am already working on and new ones I have been thinking about. (You could apply this to different business opportunities or different projects within your current business.)

Then for each project I ask myself:

  • MUST I do this? ie. Is this something I am compelled to do? I check for this compulsion from inside. Compulsion from outside is not so healthy. I want to be internally motivated, not just doing things because I should do them.
  • CAN I do this? This is a check to see if the opportunity is currently open to me right now. Sometimes I may not have the resources or connections. Sometimes the opportunity will partly depend on someone else’s decision.
  • Do I WANT to do this? This question forces me to check in with my wishes and desires. Will this project give me life? Is this something I really want to do?

I then look at how many ticks each project/focus has and choose the three with the most to focus on that quarter. Ones I don’t want to do or can’t do inevitably get crossed off the list.

This process leaves me with three clear areas of focus for the next 3 months which I think is plenty. I try to define each specific outcomes for each so I am clear on what I am shooting for.

How to implement your 3 month outcomes

Planning my goals is one thing. Implementing them is another.

I am visual, so the more I can see my goals, the more likely I am to stay focused on them. So I put them in places where I can see them often; in the front of my diary, on the white board on my desk. Sometimes I tape them to the front of the notebook I am currently using.

I read my 3 month outcomes each morning before I start work. I use them when planning my week and my day.

And when I get to the end of the quarter, I evaluate how I’ve gone and then start the process all over again.

Action: Plan some 3 month goals

If you think this process could be useful for  you, download my template here and give it a go. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know how it goes.

Image used courtesy of Reportergimmi under Creative Commons license.



  1. Chris Wheeler says:

    Good article, thank you.
    The link to your 3 month goal setting template seems to have disappeared.
    Can you email me a copy or add the links back again?
    Thank you

  2. I’m enjoying reading your tips, this ones hit home. I’m never short of ideas, the trick seems to be, not to drown in them.

  3. Margaux Dela Cruz says:

    A quarterly goal and reality check is important to drive growth and success. To help entrepreneurs plan ahead for their 3-month goal is to learn more about their target market. When they understand the needs of their prospect customers, they can readily sit and plan their 3-month goals accordingly.

  4. I totally understand the benefits of goal setting; I suggest using a vision board as guide for short and longer terms is great as well. It helped me tremendously.

  5. Hi Susan,

    Good post. I’ve always battled to get my explosive ideas into single file and create the most out of them.

    Thanks this definitely helps. Sharing!


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