Mastering focus and intentional work

Fidji SimoFirst Round Review recently interviewed Fidji Simo who is Facebook’s VP of Product and described by her colleagues as having the ‘uncanny ability to juggle many projects and priorities, without losing focus’.

In the interview Fidji explains her philosophy of only undertaking intentional work, truly understanding what you want to accomplish and centreing all your activities around your goal.

I recommend reading the full article to see how Fidji manages to do this so well; but if you are tight on time, here are the key learning points I took from the article:

Achieving focus

Focus is not about charging down a straight line; but knowing the destination you want to reach and being able to make lots of incremental changes along the way. Knowing when to make these changes is important and the best way to recognise the need for change is to regularly take time out to reflect on where you are.

Fidji makes time in her diary every Monday to run evaluation sessions, where she can review progress, understand changing business priorities and determine the focus of the week for both her and her team.

Getting the best out of meetings

For every meeting you go into, ensure you understand the purpose of the meeting and know what you want to get out of it for yourself and for the group. Fidji does this by preparing a checklist of the things she wants to leave the meeting with and systematically running through each item to ensure it is covered.

When it comes to one-to-one’s with her team members, she sets a limit of 15 minutes per meeting, which not only encourages people to hone in on the most pertinent points and avoids dragging a meeting out just to fill a time slot, but also allows her to get more face time with different members of her team.

To avoid other people’s priorities compromising her own, Fidji builds buffer time into her calendar which can be used to slot in last-minute meetings or requests for other deliverables. Whenever people ask for a meeting that doesn’t quite fit with her goals, she’ll try to direct them to the buffer time.

Fidji also sits down with her PA every month to undertake calendar audits, so she can see where she is spending her time and set herself new goals for spending more time on the projects that are in her focus. A positive side effect of this practice is the cancellation of recurring meetings that have outlived their usefulness.

Delegating ownership

To avoid being distracted onto a task that does not fall directly within the scope of her absolute focus, Fidje ensures it is delegated with ‘forward momentum’ to someone who can focus their time on it. This not only helps her time management, but also helps the person delegated the task to take on more responsibility and ownership, which heightens their ability to meet their own objectives.

Creating a culture that is open to change

Fidje prefers to put people in charge of a problem, not a product; an approach that helps them think beyond the current solution and encourages more creative thinking and fluid behaviour.

She also strives to continuously reinforce the point that assumptions will change as people spend more time on a problem and tries to make sure that people know it is ok for their assumptions to change.

Finally releasing products, services, new processes early to get initial feedback and using that to adjust them accordingly is a ‘must’ in her book.