At the end of the day, do you ever feel that you “did a lot of things”, but that you actually made no progress?
Have you ever sat down and listed out everything that you did? I would guess that it will be a very long list. There would be the emails, the meetings, the phone calls, the ad hoc meetings, the crisis meetings, the budget report that Finance decided they needed a week and a half earlier than planned…. It goes on and on. Don’t forget the personal things on your to do list too…
What had to give way?
Time is not infinite, so something has to get put to the back of the queue. Unfortunately it tends to be all of the ‘Big life’ goals that this happens to. They are longer term, so we’ll spend time on them tomorrow, right? So instead of spending time on the things that would really move your life and career forward, you wear yourself out keeping all the plates spinning and so make a load of progress in a million and one different directions and almost no progress towards the important ones. If you were to draw it, it might look something like this:
So the big dreams get overwhelmed by the “small stuff”… and tomorrow will be the same as today, s the ‘tomorrow’ where we will work on our Big Dreams never comes.
I came across a great example of this diversionary challenge recently – the Managing Director who was struggling to finance his business (really important for him and his employees) who was struggling with a decision about the colour his office should be painted. Instead of working on his financial projections he was using mental capacity to decide if white or beige would be better!
What can you do?
Amazingly enough, whilst we can all suffer from indecision and the occasional distraction, successful people have an almost obsessive focus on the ‘Big Goals’ and important personal needs. The Other “stuff” they simply treat as ‘noise’. This doesn’t mean that they are cavalier about what they see as non-essential tasks.
When you are faced with time overload (more things to do than time to do them), there are some simple things that can help:
- Ask yourself, “Will the time spent on this activity taking me towards my ‘Big Goals’ in life?”. If the answer is no, what is the compelling reason for doing it? If there is no compelling reason, don’t do it.
- Learn how to say NO! It sounds simple, but you may have personal values around not wanting to disappoint people. Why is someone elses’ inability to plan, your problem? Also remember that life is a team game in which you generally can’t make it on your own. So learn to say no, but in a constructive way – “I can’t help you today, but I can give you an hour on Monday”.
- Use all of your resources – who else in your business/life could this be delegated to? Asking for help is not an admission of failure. When you do delegate, take responsibility for the outcome, good or bad.
- Focus on the important and not the urgent (they are not necessarily the same thing).
Most important of all – don’t sweat the small stuff!
This is not an exhaustive list, but should start to help you develop a habit of focusing on outcomes. After all, there is a dream behind the outcome – such as I want to make Partner, be a Doctor, found a Charity.
Are you in control of your life, or is your life in control of you?
We can’t do everything and yet we try. We have big goals and yet we often find ourselves diverted by less important activities. We have big dreams and yet we spend hours on “stuff” that has no intrinsic value to helping us realise them.
So we end up feeling that life is in control of us….
The good news is that this can change. A good start is to look critically at how your day spends you (rather than you spending your life in a chosen way). What is it that you are doing that is not moving you towards your goals or dreams? You may have to be prepared to make some uncomfortable choices – I am in the wrong job, or I may have to deal with some things that I’d rather not think about.
A better start would be to get a coach. With a critical friend, you can really challenge assumptions and get fully clear on how you are going to create the life you want, not the one that you currently have. If you think I could help, please get in touch.
At the end of the day, DO something. The path to your future may be long, but by taking a step on it, you are a step closer to your future success. Why not #Startsomething or #Changesomething today? No better time to take control of your life than right now.