“I’m always putting out bushfires!”
It’s one of the most common things I hear business leaders say.
As a result of this reactive leadership style, very regularly they feel completely drained of energy and cannot see what, if anything, significant they achieved in the day, let alone anything meaningful for themselves or the business in the future.
In his book 7 Habits of Highly effective people, Stephen Covey popularised a principle, developed by Dwight D Eisenhower who was the 34th President of the USA from 1953 to 1961.
Obviously as President and a General in World War 2 before that, Eisenhower continuously had to make some very tough and crucial decisions. This ultimately led him to invent the world-famous Eisenhower principle, which more than 60 years later helps us to prioritise what is urgent and what is important.
A task that is urgent requires our immediate attention. These are the things that shout, “Do me now!”. It includes things like phone calls , project deadlines, our car battery dying, a manager complaining about one of his team member’s absenteeism or a phone call from the school requesting a meeting about our child’s behaviour.
Immediately we go into reactive mode – we become hurried and focussed only on that ‘URGENT’ thing.
My mother used to always say “more haste less speed”.
Our days become busy by us reacting to what’s going on around us. Consequently, we making little, if any progress towards our long-term goals. In my experience, this is the main reason we experience personal frustration and resentment to those around us.
Our ‘busyness’ is the result of someone else’s agenda – not our own.
Obviously, these are real life examples of what does happen on a day-to-day basis, and therefore we cannot completely eliminate them.
However, we can significantly reduce their impact if we focus on the things which are important on the other hand.
What’s ‘IMPORTANT’ are the things conducive to us achieving our long-term goals and purpose.
Some examples are long term and weekly planning, regular meetings with our team, family time, journaling, car and home maintenance. When our focus is on the important we remain in the proactive mode. We then can remain rational, objective and open to new opportunities and ideas.
So, when an email about a new business opportunity comes through we can quickly decide whether or not it’s going to help us achieve our long term plan or not. Project deadlines are planned from the get-go, hence eliminating most urgent situations. Time with our family lessens chances of our child’s behavioural issues at school. Team issues are addressed as they arise, thus minimising ongoing behavioural and performance issues.
The actions are the result of our own agenda – not someone else’s.
Obviously, we all agree with Stephen Covey who suggests that we should spend most of our time doing the important. However, for most of us, whilst it intellectually makes sense, our reality is we don’t experience it. Why?
1. We live in a society which is bombarded with information
Smart phones and televisions are wonderful technologies that enable us to keep up with what is happening in our lives, businesses, city, state, nation and world. At any minute of the day we can check in.
2. Reacting is inbuilt
Ever since our ancestors attended to the immediacy of being chased by a saber-toothed tiger, our same fight and flight instincts kick in. It’s very difficult to remain inspired by our long-term goals when “danger” is pressing down on us.
3. Our focus is on what we have “to do”.
Most business owners I speak to have a written list of everything that needs to be done. Every day they feel overwhelmed by that ever-growing list.
4. Because we don’t know what is truly important to us.
Many of my posts focus on this point. Every one of us live in a society which tells us what SHOULD be important to us and we take it on ourselves. Most of us are SHOULDing all over ourselves. Very few of us have ever really determined what is important to us.
From the moment our eyes open every day we have the opportunity to start anew. None of us can change what happened yesterday and certainly, if nothing else 2020 has shown us that none of know what tomorrow brings. All we have is that present moment.
All we have is today.
In this moment we have a choice. The choice is whether, in this moment, will you allow your day to be driven by someone else’s agenda, or will it be driven by your own?
Ask yourself, “Today, what truly is important for me to achieve?”
Here’s some very practical tips to stay focussed on the important
1. Shut down the information overload.
Today make a very conscious decision to shut off the 24-hour news. Only look at Twitter and Facebook once a day (if you need to at all). Check your emails 1-2 times a day ONLY – switch off that prompter that shows you every time you get an email.
What you read on social media and in your email are other people’s agendas and they are the biggest detractors from our own. Yes, they may make us think we are helping others, but very often that is stopping us from helping ourselves.
Remember, on a plane they tell us to put our own mask on first before helping others. We are going to be far more helpful to others when we are filled with peace, joy and inspiration.
Make the choice to stop worrying about what’s happening with the US Elections, BREXIT, the international response to the Coronavirus, the Kardashians, the Royals or Miley Cyrus. Choose to fill your mind with information most conducive to helping you achieve what you TRULY want.
2. Hone your proactiveness
A daily habit I’ve had for many years is at the end of today, mapping out what I need to achieve tomorrow. All the books on time management (I prefer to call it priority management, as time manages itself, without my input!), tell us this is important because (a) our subconscious is working on finding a solution as we sleep and (b) we don’t waste 2 hours the next morning trying to work out what we need to do today.
Life happens and we cannot fully eliminate the urgent things from happening to us. We can, if we have our day planned, make a decision as to whether or not that thing is more important than what you’ve got planned. Sometimes those things are more important, mostly they are not.
For example, I remember one day I came into the office, ready and raring to get stuck into my daily activities. One of our team members came in very upset. Was this an example of an urgent situation taking precedence over my important. Yes it was. If I hadn’t taken the time to talk through the situation with my team member, I would not have had much productivity happen that day.
By having our day planned we can face situations proactively rather than just reacting; rather than going into flight mode!
3. Focus on what we have “to achieve”
“To do” lists are very common. “To achieve” lists are less common. Immediately make the switch.
For example if your list is full of things like:
Change it to:
Which of those 2 lists inspire you most? In my experience when I think about what I have to do I feel overwhelmed or procrastinate. I don’t like doing some things.
For me, having a “to achieve” list inspires me more. My focus is on the result not what I have to do.
4. Identify and live to what is TRULY important to us.
You know what is important to you – your soul is crying out to you to achieve it. The busy-ness of life is pushing that down, burying it in the crocodile pit. You occasionally have the energy to push your self up to take a deep breath of fresh air, but more often than not you are just keeping your nose above the bog line. You are frustrated. You are resentful to those around you.
The time is NOW. Take the time to work out what is TRULY important to you, not what everyone else tells you it is.
Today make the choice to live your life to achieve your own agenda, not someone else’s.
If you’d like to know more about how Rob and I can work alongside you to achieve the business and the lifestyle you truly want for you and your family, reach out. We’re here to assist you in creating a life which best serves you and your family.
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