I’ve been away for so long.
I got married. In June. And once you’re away for some time, it gets difficult to get back into a rhythm. No excuses.
Anyway, in that time, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would write about when I started up again. Which brings us to my next topic: keeping the main thing the main thing.
I love to plan. I love to organize. I love lists and projects and spreadsheets.
I am quite efficient. I get done in 6 hours what may take others 12. There are many schools of thought out there about efficiency and productivity such as 7 habits and Getting Things Done and Franklin’s charting. And I love to learn about new ideas and ways to organize/ plan. But you know, it’s really common sense and all efficient people follow similar systems whether they realize it or not.
There are two things that stop us from getting things done:
- Not doing anything
- Not doing the right things
So on one extreme, you’ve got people who can’t get motivated, are slow to get going, think about thinking about doing something. And they procrastinate and do everything but the task at hand.
On the other extreme, you’ve got people who get so bogged down by the millions of things they think they have to do, that they spin in their hamster wheel and never get to their destination. I think of everything in levels. There are levels and steps down to everything. In my mind, almost everything looks like a pyramid. The world looks like a pyramid. At the top, you’ve got the most important main things. Then lower, less important but still important things – directly supporting the top main things. And the lower you go, the less important and the more plentiful. Everything from food to companies to work priorities can fall under a pyramid.
Whenever I feel stuck, like I’m not accomplishing something, I ask myself – where am I in the pyramid? If I don’t know, that means I’m probably not doing something that directly supports the next level up. For instance, I may spend hours and hours building a report prototype with charts and numbers and trends but don’t feel like I’m building anything that tells a story or answers anything. I take myself to the top: what is the purpose of this report? To determine how successful a pilot is. Great. What are the success metrics of this pilot? New assets, number of new accounts opened, and client satisfaction. Fantastic. And so on and so forth until I get to the “level” I should be working on. Then I cut out anything that’s not directly accomplishing the objective directly above my level in the pyramid.
Each week, I write down the biggest priorities for the week, which should be built around my clearly defined overall work priorities. If you are a business owner, this should be relatively straight forward. You will have two main priorities: ongoing service (reactive) and developing your business (proactive). You may find that you’re spending so much time working with commitments to current clients that you’re not able to work on developing new business. The better you can manage the latter, the more time you can free up to do the former. The evolution of every great entity is the transition from a reactive state to a proactive one. You must master your reactive activities to where they are on auto-pilot before you can shift to a proactive state. As soon as you get a handle on the things you absolutely must do (and do well), you must quickly shift into proactive mode and start laying the path for the birth of greater strategies. If you don’t, you will be stuck performing menial jobs over and over that really aren’t very relevant anyway. Is it the main thing? If not, don’t do it. Or de-prioritize it, delegate it, or minimize it.