I recently finished reading Lisa Haneberg’s latest book, Focus Like A Laser Beam: 10 Ways To Do What Matters Most, and I also had a chance to chat with her via Skype, which she’ll put out as a podcast pretty soon. I’ll point to that when it’s up.
The short version of this book review is that I loved it. It’s got a unique way of viewing the subject of getting focused on tasks–Lisa uses the the physics of laser light as a metaphor for how we can better focus at work. And the metphor is apt.
Haneberg first heard the laser metaphor while working at Black & Decker, and the idea stuck with her. Digging into the physics of lasers led her to the understanding that there are some real comparisons to be made between how we focus at work, and how lasers work. Basically, lasers can be described in three stages: stimulated emission, which is when a photon passes by an atom, which causes the atom to produce a new photon identical to the original–this happens over and over until there are lots of happy, excited photons dancing around; coherency which describes the light emitted from a laser is constituted of photons that are of parallel wavelength (which basically means they’re of the same color and that the crests and troughs of each photon’s wave are in step with its’ peers; and collimation which describes the property of laser light to stay as a tight, focused beam for long distances.
Haneberg takes each of these three qualities and builds a section of the book around them. Each section contains an intro, which describes that particular piece of the metaphor, and 3-4 chapters which detail the finer points of that section. Part One is entitled “Excite and Energize” and contains four chapters relating the the idea of energizing the workplace for the benefit of focus. Part Two is called “Tune Your Focus” and it contains three chapters dealing, in large part, with team focus. Part Three is “Tune In” and it has three chapters and a conclusion. These last three chapters discuss more individualized focus, but always within the larger context of doing what’s most important.
I think my favorite section was the last three chapters which described ideas and techniques for dialing in personal focus. Some of this was really timely for me, since I’ve been in a bit of a funk for a while. I’ve got lots to do, but had a hard time digging into it. Reading this book gave me just the kick in the pants that I needed to get moving on a few critical new initiatives. I especially loved Haneberg’s admonition to just get one thing done each day–just focus on one big task and wrap it up. With all the interruptions during the day, that’s actually harder to do than it sounds. Imagine getting 4 or 5 critical tasks accomplished each week…I don’t know about everyone else’s environment, but for me, that’s huge.
The quick summary is that I reccomend Haneberg’s book to anyone who occasionally suffers from lack of focus at work. It’s a small book, which makes a pretty quick read. I blazed through it in one evening, with only occasional glances at the computer or TV.