How many of you have that “one thing” you need to get done that you just can’t seem to find the motivation to get done? Or you realize you have taken on too much to get done with the time you have? I hate to admit it but I seem to do this all the time. I hate to say no and I so quickly say yes to something that sounds fun and exciting. Which makes it harder for me to sit down, put the time in, and finish things on time. Stephen Covey talks “Put First Things First” and as I have continued to reflect on how I work to not achieve more but achieve better this has begun to resonate with me even more. So as I write this article in part under the duress of knowing I have waited until the 11th hour I have begun to wonder what I can do to get better at knowing what should be first and how to put it first.
So what should be first for me? Too often I find myself looking for the “candy” of things to do. Those simple tasks or problems that I can focus on that feel good but don’t really move the needle in business or life. They are the distractions from the real hard work or thinking that needs to be done. I have my core focuses defined for each quarter and the goals that the team said should be achieved. I have even put them on a sheet of paper in front of my keyboard so I “see” them every day. But what I haven’t done is worked to measure each thing I take on, schedule or allow myself to get distracted by in the context of what I really should be doing. So it isn’t enough to know what my focus and goals should be I have to begin to really plan, schedule and focus my time and efforts day over day on them. So many of us have goals and we avoid working on them until the last minute and then work harder than needed and stress more than is needed because we waited. Think about how much more we could achieve if we only focused early on things and got them done in a systematic manner. Which for a Lion/Monkey like me is hard but not something that can’t be achieved.
Now that I have committed to ensuring I am focused day over day on the tasks that need to be achieved and ensuring that those things I am doing are truly working toward them what can distract me or derail me from doing the right things. Because to be honest I put a lot of things on my calendar that aren’t 100% the right things at the right time to get those first things done first. So why am I always pushing them off? First my email continues to be one of my largest distractors. While I have all of the sounds and visual alerts turned off I still find myself compelled even right now to stop what I am working on and go check it. That “candy” is calling my name and I have to get better at resisting. I have set aside times each day to check it and I know that those times are enough to ensure I don’t miss important items. I just have to be willing to commit to it. I also have to get better at scheduling even those little things that I let pile up in my “to do list”. I have realized that if I just let them sit on a sheet of paper, in my OneNote, voicemail or email without putting them into a time slot in my calendar I will think about them until I address them. They aren’t in the front of my mind but just like the question of “did I close the garage door” after you drive away from the house these things are taking focus and brain power away and need to be put down in a time slot to do or I need to drop them from my list.
With the focus on what my first things are and putting them first in my schedule what else could go wrong? Well the rest of life and the need to be flexible. I can’t do it all now or today so I have to plan so that I have time for the unplanned. I also have to plan time to have nothing planned and be OK with that. This even includes fun because I have found that if I don’t I will fill free time with “candy” or even real work and then feel frustrated that I don’t have time for those things that I personally love to do. But the most important part is to know that I work to serve others; my co-works, clients and vendors; and in that effort to serve I have to be able to find time for them when asked. This time can’t be 2 weeks from never. So I have to have that space to do what is needed and the flexibility to move things around as needed but the focus to get back to what is first once the new first is done.
Seems like a lot and seems like a core theme I have come to many times before. But hopefully as I spend time putting this down for those of you that choice to read these posts maybe I will get more committed because I know you are out there judging my progress both to help yourself but also even me. But since many of you never comment to me about what I write I will not know who you are which means everyone is part of the “you” in my eyes which makes it harder to think I can hide. As always those that wish to comment please do and those that want to talk or challenge me on my thinking please do also. I always find I am better for the comments and dialog than I am just for the act of writing.