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We are all familiar through one source or another with the concept of the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence. They were introduced by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and in a nutshell they are explained thus: The Circle of Concern contains everything that concerns you but about which you either can’t do anything or you choose not to. Occasionally it contains what Charles R Hobbs (in his own pre-7 Habits book ‘TimePower’) would call

• things we think we can do nothing about, but we can and don’t, and
• things we know we can do something about, but won’t.

Let’s not even go there because we know we all have things that come under one of those headings.

The Circle of Influence contains the things which concern us, and about which and upon which we can exert some level of influence – we can do something about them, if we want to. Again, as Charles Hobbs might put it, the things we think we can do something about, and do.

For the life of me I cannot understand why everyone who quotes Dr Covey invariably stops there – at Circle 2, so to speak. Because (pardon the grammar) Dr Covey wrote about a third Circle.

In the follow-up to the 7 Habits he wrote that effective weekly goals are in our Circle of FOCUS. This Circle contains what we are concerned about, that are aligned with our Personal Mission Statement, and are timely – of the moment, now, urgent AND important. To quote Dr Covey, “To spend time and effort in any other Circle diminishes our effectiveness. When we operate in our Circle of Concern we basically waste effort on things we have no ability to control or affect. When we operate within our Circle of Concern we do some good, but what we do may be at the expense of something better. When we set and achieve goals that are in our Circle of Focus, we maximise the use of our time and effort.” (First Things First, p.151)

Remembering that ‘good’ is the enemy of ‘best’, perhaps a little more thought should be given to deciding, when we plan our weeks and set our goals, whether they lie in our Circle of FOCUS. And decide that if they do, then focus is what they’ll get.

Like you I have difficulty with such a focus, because life gets in the way. For example, in the middle of my writing this I was interrupted by a phone call, and that call was interrupted by another (no message on an unidentified number, thanks a bunch). As it was, the first call was in my Circle of Focus so no harm no foul.

Personal planning enables the Circle of Focus. Haphazard To-Do lists only expand the other two circles. Focus, people – FOCUS!

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