Focus for High Achievers - Title slider with venn diagram of personal, interpersonal and organizational excellence. Strategies to help you make your time count, cope with emotional distractions, and prioritize actions

High Achiever Personality Characteristics that Reduce Focus


High Aptitude

High Achievers confuse the number of things they CAN do with the number of items they SHOULD do.

The Need to Figure Things Out

High achievers are good at finding solutions, but sometimes this strength distracts them from their primary goal.

The “Go-To” Person

High achievers, because of their intelligence and reliability, are often sought out to problem-solve or put out fires. Their dedication to others makes them inclined to help. Together, these characteristics result in tension between the desire for focused execution and the needs of others.


The high achiever has great ideas and wants to achieve a lot. He or she is usually highly aware of the 20 additional projects that need to be completed after the current task. This awareness can make it difficult to stay focused only on the present.

Focus is a capacity that only you can protect. No one else will do it for you.

Distractions from Focus

Cluttered Mental Space

Worry, disorganization, unfinished tasks, “being in a funk,” interpersonal conflict – all of these will lower your mental focus and your efficiency in moving forward. Problem-solve the things that clutter your mental space. Even though it may take extra time on the front end, you will reap the rewards from fulfilling, focused productivity.

Other People

People, both the well-intended ones and the annoying ones, are always available to distract you. Ensure that you have personal clarity about your mission, good boundaries, and the ability to protect your time. These skills will allow you to maintain both your focus and your relationships.

Your Own Emotions

It is difficult to maintain focus when you are sad, angry, or even happy. Having a clear plan for what you want to accomplish increases your likelihood of being able to maintain focus despite the presence of strong emotion. Practice following your agenda regardless of your temporary emotional state. Build the habit of staying the course even when you don’t feel like it; this skill will yield high dividends over time. It will also help you to feel successful on emotional days.

Lack of Clarity about Your Vision

Our focus is the strongest when we want something. Focus that originates from obligation or a momentary motivation is fragile. Having a clear vision of where we are going and the specific steps to get there allows us to maintain laser focus across changing circumstances.

Lack of Prioritized Effort

If there are several different but equally important things you want to accomplish, it is necessary to figure out the sequence of effort. Otherwise, you will be more likely to bounce back and forth between efforts. This continuous transitioning costs time and concentration.


Momentum builds on itself. When we feel like we are winning, it is easy to keep the focus. Buffer yourself against the loss of focus by predicting that there will be obstacles. Prepare yourself mentally to encounter setbacks so that you are ready to continue moving forward when they occur.


“If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.” Okay…but how well? Should we do everything with excellence? It sounds great in theory, but this strategy conflicts with the reality of limited time, energy, and finances.

When I was in my PhD program, I realized that I had no idea how to differentiate the amount of effort to get an A versus a B. I had always done everything to the absolute best of my ability and had gotten A’s as a result. But what if I could learn the same amount of information, and still get an A with 75% of my capacity instead of 100% of my capacity? I systematically varied my efforts until I figured out the point at which additional efforts yielded diminishing returns. The real-life application of this is knowing the result we want and how much effort we need in order to get it. Without that knowledge, we put ceilings on our success because we inadvertently waste time and/or money on items in which additional investment will not get us closer to our goals.


You can do it better than everyone else. I get it. The problem is that the more talented you are across areas, the higher the likelihood that you will more competent than other people at many things. Choose the items that don’t need your magic touch…in order to free up your time for those that do.

Excel at Assertiveness

Boundaries—saying no. Saying “no” is one of the most important variables of peak performance. Without this ability, there will always be ceilings on your performance. The stress of being stretched in too many directions will decrease your energy. The higher the number of balls one has to juggle, the lower the amount of attention that can be designated to the most important ones. In addition to saying “no” to obligations, try saying “no” to all of the friends, activities, or conversations that drain your energy. The other side of assertiveness is saying “yes.” Speak your needs. You need to personally understand your desires and priorities first. Then speak them in the appropriate situations. Being assertive is never about being selfish or mean; it is simply respecting ourselves as much as we respect others.

The Mendoza Line

Most people have heard that we are able to get more mileage out of honing our strengths than we do by remediating our weaknesses. The Mendoza line refers to the minimal performance on our weaknesses that will allow us to continue playing in the game. It is a baseball reference to an excellent outfield player with a low batting average. The batting average was just high enough to allow him to continue playing professional baseball. The friend who introduced me to this concept said that he seeks to hit the Mendoza line for his weaknesses but puts the majority of effort into honing and stretching his strengths.

The Power of One

One Task – Start with the task that will make you feel the most successful. Getting stuck in the chaos of life can happen on a regular basis. Focusing on the one thing that will give you a sense of movement will help you keep on track.

One Priority per Category – Focus on only one priority in each life category at a time. Life categories might be fitness, family, or financial priorities. Multi-tasking tedious tasks can work, but multi-tasking priorities will fragment your focus.

Befriend FOMO

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) interferes with focus as we chase opportunity. If you are focused, you absolutely will miss out on information and opportunities. On the other hand, accepting that fact allows us to hone in on what we really want to achieve.