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Focus is the only path to results

Posted: November 10, 2016

To achieve tangible results, schedule time away from news feeds and text alerts.

By Mark Gagnon

I can video chat with my mum, who's tucked far away from Happy Valley in the harbor town of Hyannis, Massachusetts. While I’m shopping, I can text my wife to see if we need yogurt. I can also call a far-away friend about an upcoming hiking trip as I make my way to the HUB for a quick bit of energy before my afternoon class.

Today’s hyperconnected world indeed offers amazing benefits. And there are so many other ways I could be connecting. I’ll leave that to our students — the professionals at staying in the know, in real time!

Yet our constant connectivity comes at a cost: Distraction. That lack of being in the moment leads to lost opportunities to accomplish impactful results.

Our challenge is that to have real impact we must generate tangible results.

I’ve found the only way to do this is to shut off the feeds, texts, updates, news, etc. and just focus. For me it’s hiding out in my office a few times a week during my morning peak thinking time.

While I love meaningful conversations with our young budding entrepreneurs and with like-minded colleagues who strive to make our students better, I can’t have those interactions and do the deep thinking necessary to, say, develop a new educational module for AgTech Entrepreneurship.

I’ve tried to do both things at once, and without fail both go badly. I end up having a shallow distracted conversation that I feel bad about later and the class module ends up being a few jumbled thoughts on a note pad.

I’ve vowed to focus on the moment and task at hand.

Call it my fall semester resolution, since we do live in the wonderful world of semesters. I’ve set aside time in solitude to create, draft and develop and also time to work with others to engage, converse and dream out what the future could look like. And I try to schedule those tasks at times when my mind is most suited for them.

Applying focus to my life has made me — and more importantly others — happier. Plus I manage to get a few things done, which is a nice bonus.

I’m not always 100 percent there — just ask my wife and kids. Many evenings and Saturdays, the professor is catching up on grading.

Focus is a process of setting precious time aside for relationships, meaningful projects and keeping yourself centered in an ever-accelerating world. 

Go ahead and take your time back to create meaningful impact. I bet you’ll be glad you did.


Dr. Mark Gagnon is the Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar & Entrepreneurship Coordinator at the College of Agricultural Sciences. See his students in action during GE Week, sharing their passion for entrepreneurship with their Make It Happen campaign. Check out Ag Springboard and the CAS Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program.