We get busy.
The ‘To-Do’ list on Monday often starts with what was left on Friday, and we are faced with adding the things we completed last Monday. Then the messages start coming in from the people that depend on us for things — kids, spouse, aging parents, boss, peers, customers, our team, and friends. Then we respond like we have on every other Monday — we get to work.
If you stood back and considered your day, how confident are you that you are working on the most important stuff? How confident are you that you are successfully balancing the competing priorities in your life?
I was coaching a highly intelligent and capable leader who was struggling with this feedback: “You are not following up with some of your peers on key work, and are getting the reputation of not following through.” Her life was much like what I described in the first paragraph. I simply asked the question, “How do you prioritize your work when the list gets long?” Her response: “The list is always long, so I just get to work.”
The good news — she did not need marriage counseling, a spa weekend, or even a job change. She just needed to practice managing herself.
For this practice, I asked her to set aside an hour a week to step back, reset her priorities, reset herself, and THINK about the work/business that was being entrusted to her. The result? The top 2-3 priorities started getting done every week, her follow-up was more timely with key peers, and she made time for the important things while letting a few other things go. The feedback from her leader three months later supported the impact: “The sales team is feeling more connected to your work and the impact you are having on our business is exactly what I expected when we hired you.” Her feedback was: “I feel like I am having an impact and I worry/think less about work when I am not there.”
This is a practice Stephen Covey called sharpening the saw, and Gino Wickman calls a clarity break™. The people targeted with this solution are leaders who have big goals, many resources to get focused, and a world that wants a great deal from them because of their position, personal capability, personality, and power. The simple solution? Spend an hour or two a week to reset yourself and make sure you are focusing on the things that matter to you, so the barriers that are getting in the way of your own focus and joy get removed. Is your life more like this last sentence or the first paragraph of this post?
In working with and coaching leaders who live that first paragraph every week, and ironically becoming that person, the only habit I have found that allows us to be our best is to stop doing and spend some time thinking. To work ON our life and take a break from being IN our work. Try it — get away from your desk to a quiet place, turn off your phone, and spend time to review your priorities, think about the people that matter, solve a couple of big issues you or your team has placed in your hands, and plan your return to work with new focus.
I am still working on being 100% successful on that one hour a week, so expect it to be hard.
Here is a short video where I explain the form I have created for myself to use during my TRU time. This is named after my focus of generating TRUst and facing some of my important TRUths that I want to live by.
Our work as leaders starts with us working on our own clarity, confidence and energy/joy for our work. Start making that a priority this week by practicing a clarity break!
Extra resources to learn more:
- How To Be A Great Boss by Gino Wickman and Rene Boer — Clarity Break is on pp. 73-78
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey — see Habit 7 on Sharpening the Saw