Focus with Anna Phillips

Meyler Campbell & Peppermint Fish
11th July 2019

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Focus with Anna Phillips

This episode features an in-depth discussion with respected Meyler Campbell faculty member, Anna Phillips; a leadership coach, a resilience practitioner and a mindfulness teacher.


About Anna Phillips

This episode features an in-depth discussion with respected Meyler Campbell faculty member, Anna Phillips. Anna is a leadership coach, a resilience practitioner and a mindfulness teacher. Anna aims to help her clients achieve peak performance while achieving a sense of balance in their lives.


Introduction to Focus

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and overloaded by the sheer volume of information we are presented with daily. In today’s smartphone-addicted world, we feel compelled to multi-task in order to keep up.

This podcast explores the impact this assumption has on your ability to focus; it considers how you can improve your focus and share this capability with your Clients.

00:50 Anna describes how It's never been easier to connect and communicate, or harder to work in a focussed manner Professionals spend significant time, out of the office, checking emails and messages

Focus as Clarity

03:05 Focus as Clarity is linked to our sense of purpose and our intrinsic motivation. Clarity enables us to make decisions and determine what's important to us.

Focus as Attention

04:05 This is related to our ability to work distraction-free to get things done and feel in control. Being focussed as we work enables us to be truly present and more fully engaged in what we're doing

05:15 Anna describes how our propensity for multi-tasking reduces our ability to focus and why rapid cognitive switching is ineffective, since attention residue occurs when we leave one task and move to another.

The smartphone effect

06:00 Smartphone use is a challenge to our ability to focus if we don't put boundaries around it. Allowing smartphone notifications to distract us creates a sense of reactiveness rather than responsiveness

Three essential elements of focus

07:40 We can improve our ability to focus through the following three essential elements:

  1. Be a more proactive player in our use of time

- separate the urgent from the important

.- learn to say no in order to free up time

- build in planning time and down time. Down time is important for unconscious reflection and creative insight

11:15  2. Create the conditions for focus - set yourself up to work in a focused way

- put some movement into your day and create a habit or ritual around that

- let people know when you're setting interruption-free time

- think about surroundings and where you can work at your best

13:15   3. Developing our attention muscle - how mindfulness, the practice of selecting a focus for our attention and maintaining it, can help

-  there are classes and learning resources for mindfulness

- purposeful pauses, creating a moment when you choose to pay full attention, help develop your attention muscle

- be intentional about how you deploy your attention and notice when your focus wanders


Simple strategies for coaches

16:30 Anna advises four simple strategies for professional coaches who want to bring focus into their practice

  1. Be clear about why you coach and who you coach to add most value, even if you're a new coach
  2. Prepare yourself before a coaching meeting; decide how to put the day behind you and be ready to focus on the client and role-model focus for them
  3. Prepare for the client before the conversation - consider how you want to 'be' when you're coaching them
  4. Consider your own objective for the coaching meeting and what you'd like to focus on in order to deepen your skill set and practice

Using your strategies with your coaching clients

20:05 Anna describes how to use these strategies with your clients, encouraging them to focus and get the most benefit from your meeting. Some transition points where coaching for clarity helps clients include when they start a new role or are reviewing their progress

21:40 Help clients to gain clarity of purpose, ask them where they place their energy and what really matters to them. Consider how to support the development of greater attention when clients express a need for greater work-life balance or improved productivity.

Key questions for your clients

23:30 Anna suggests some key questions to ask clients in order to help them develop the three essential elements of focus.

24:50 You may test your client's assumptions about availability and responsiveness if they feel they have to be 'always on duty'

26:18  Anna shares some wisdom from Peter Drucker and asks us to consider, ‘what one thing will make a difference to your ability to focus and what will you do now?’

This is how we choose what we do; this is how you can ‘let the sum of your days resemble a work of art’


If you want to learn more about focus, here are some resources for you to explore:


  • Deep Work, Cal Newport, 2016
  • The 5 Choices, Kory Kogan, Adam Merril, Leena Rinne, 2015
  • Mindfulness On The Go, Padraig O’Morain, 2014
  • Finding The Space To Lead, Janice Marturano, 2014
  • Get Present, Sara Harvey Yao, 2013
  • Personal Productivity Secrets, Maura Nevel Thomas, 2012

HBR Articles:

  • If You Are So Successful, Why Are You Still Working 70 Hours A Week?, Laura Empson 2018
  • Are You Proud Of How You Are Spending Your Time? Elisabeth Grace Saunders, 2015
  • Get More Done By Focusing Less On Work, Stew Friedman, 2015
  • Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life, Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams 2014
  • Happy Workaholics Need Boundaries, Not Balance, Ed Batista 2013
  • How To Allocate Your Time, And Your Effort, Elisabeth Grace Saunders, 2013
  • A 90 Minute Plan For Personal Effectiveness, Tony Schwartz, 2011

TED Talks:

  • The 8 Traits Successful People Have in Common, Richard St John – No. 3 Focus, excerpt here: (5.54)
  • What Happens In Your Brain When You Pay Attention?, Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar (6:18)
  • All it takes is 10 Minutes, Andy Puddicombe (9:24)
  • Why Work Doesn’t Happen At Work, Jason Fried (15:11)
  • In Praise Of Slowness, Carl HonorĂ© (19:11)

Mindfulness Apps:

Productivity Apps:

LinkedIn Articles

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