As leaders we have a number of responsibilities and a variety of demands calling for our attention. In addition, we all have good intentions of getting everything done. For many of us, it means that our “to do” list is never empty. Thus, we all have to prioritize and make choices that are going to impact our day, our well being, those around us, and even how we view our success.
How many of us have attended those time management classes, or bought self-help books that promise a 4-hour work week, or get more done in less time, or you can do it all. Deep down we know that this is not possible. We try multitasking, balancing, delegating, etc. But, what it comes down to is a basic value statement – what do you value most? What commodity in your life – time, money, patience, etc. is highest on your list?
We get busy and caught up in the activity of life. We go from one task to the next. It seems that our priority is to get things checked off the list. There are situations where at the end of the day – you may have checked a dozen things off of your “to do” list but you still feel that you did not get anything done. This is a symptom of focusing on the activity rather than the accomplishment. You have focused on the wrong measurement or gauge to assess your day. While what you did may have been important or had to get done – it may not have progressed you toward your goals.
For me – the activity of life was not fulfilling. I was not growing as a person or a professional. Yes, it appeared that I was successful and happy. But, I was spending the most precious of commodities on the wrong thing. I wasn’t focused on the reasons for my behavior – I was focused on getting things done – thus, not getting the right things done.
Each of us has to ask the question of ourselves and truly be honest – why do you work? Yes, there is the needs part – I have to pay the bills, I have to have a place to live, etc. But, there is that other part – I have chosen this profession because – I want to make a contribution to ……. Or, I want to be able to …… Or, I want my family to be able to…….. In many cases, we get so caught up in the day-to-day burdens of the job, or what Society says we should be doing – that we don’t have time to make that contribution, or do what fills in the blank.
To me – time is that precious commodity. It can’t be saved for a rainy day. It can’t be borrowed against. It can’t be retrieved when it has past. We have to use it wisely. We have to choose how we apply it. We have to make sure we are focused on the “right” things. “First things first” as Covey says. We need to reflect and get out of the rut of thinking that activity is success and focus on the why of the activity – not just checking it off the list.
So, carefully use some of that precious sand in the hour glass each day to reflect and prioritize. Close off the rest of the demands for 5 minutes and truly take that time to focus on what is important to you. Then, set up your to do list – you might find that it gets shorter, and is less activity based. You may also find that in the end – you achieved more.