Thinking about all that we “must do” today, this month, this year can get overwhelming. I remember days in a busy newsroom when the sheer noise of multiple calls and fraught energy of people rushing and worrying over ticking deadlines was exhausting. Any busy place or busy mind can feel mildly sickening after too much adrenalin for too long.
I was shown a very powerful approach for sorting my priorities, and the next challenge of focusing solely on them, one at a time. First you determine what is the single most effective results-producing activity you can do, above all. So if you’re debating which email to respond to first, it’s the one that will have the most impact. If deciding which meeting you should attend, choose the one most directly aligned with your key goals. This approach is not about picking low-hanging fruit, although that may be the right option sometimes! It’s empowering to feel on track and achieving what matters and that creates momentum. Once you’ve nailed priority-setting based on doing what counts most, next you must focus only on it. Do it until it is done. Pausing for an unknown ID caller, to answer emails or go for coffee can stall progress or distract you to another activity. Finish your highest priority first. Then choose the next.
I know how simple this sounds but it’s not. I have managed well-trained project teams who took time to master it, mainly because we’re all programmed to respond to the incoming, latest or most authoritative direction, e.g. your boss asks you to a 3 hour meeting although you have a deadline, so you go and fret; or your email alert keeps pinging like you’re Pavlov’s dog so you keep reading it and the day disappears. You can choose effectiveness over busy-ness, it is a mindset as much as a methodology. Oh, and turn off your email alert, all the time management boffins say so! 😉