March 12, 2012

Focus on What Matters Most

Success is not measured by what you plan to do, it is measured by what you accomplish.  Celebrate your accomplishments.

How many of you organize and manage your life through a to-do list or daily planner?  There was a time when the people who organized, managed, and maintained a detailed list of tasks, responsibilities, and commitments really impressed me.  I always felt so lost compared to the organizational skills of those folks…

Until I realized how much time was being spent keeping track of things that needed to get done, creating priorities for stuff that didn’t get done, and adding stuff to the list that will not get done.

That is when I started to rethink my lists and obligations.  Being busy is not being productive.  Being organized does not translate into efficient productivity.  And productivity is not merely measure by what gets accomplished, it also involves how it is accomplished — honoring commitments, quality of performance, plus accomplishment and fulfillment.

Personally, I do not manage a to-do list.  My list is not defined by what I need to do in terms of tasks, it is managed by what I intend to accomplish. Splitting hairs?  Maybe.  Let’s explore.

Making lists of what needs to be done is a perpetual cycle.  We put stuff on our list that we have no idea when or how we are going to get it done.  We even tell ourselves we will do it, even though we know we have no time to do it.  Then, when the end of the day comes and we look at the long list and the few things we actually took off of it, we redo our list for the next day, next week, or next planning cycle.

We are constantly moving tasks around in perpetual motion of all the things we need to do, without thinking about why we are actually doing them in the first place.  And, since the list never stops growing, we have very little time to truly celebrate accomplishment or focus on what is most important.

Not keeping a list is very empowering.  It allows me to focus on those activities that are most important.  It also enables me to manage a simple list while discovering and celebrating accomplishment and energy along the way.  And, I spend almost zero time managing the strategy and size of my list.  I focus on what is important, I make and honor my commitments, and I have more time to focus on the actual tasks, not planning the tasks.

Here is how it works.

  1. Understanding your priorities:  My personal objectives are: mind, body, spirit.  My professional objectives are: business, clients, relationships.  I manage my time, my responsibilities, and my commitments to these priorities.  I make time for these things most every day.  When one day takes me out of balance, I balance it back by adjusting my priorities the following day or later in the week.
  2. Manage your commitments:  I only commit to time frames that I can honor relative to my priorities, I manage the demands and expectations of others, and I only focus on what is important once I understand WHY it is important.  I am not selfish with my time, I simply know that my time is more important to me than it is to others.  And, I know what is important and critical to my personal and professional success and manage my commitments in a manner that enables me to be most successful.
  3. Find your resources: I am a pretty talented, creative, and resourceful person.  I do not do anything that I do not do well.  If I take on something that is over my head, complicated or scary, I enroll the support of someone who is better at that task than me.  That way I have the time to focus on what I do best while developing a collaborative relationship with others.  Over time I build and develop a team of resource partners which becomes more productive for all of us in our quest to be efficient and productive.
  4. Keep it simple:  My to-do list is never longer than three to four tasks a day — that is all I have time for.  I cannot make a list of ten things and expect to accomplish them in a day.  Do the math.  If each task averages one hour that is ten hours.  How can you do that?  If each task averages thirty minutes, that is still five hours.  Is breakfast, lunch, dinner, time for your friends, children or spouse on that list?  Is that unplanned meeting on your list? Guess what, you cannot manage a list of eight to ten tasks and be successful — it is logically impossible.  Keep your list simple. Focus on what is most important and empower yourself to discover, understand, and embrace what is important. The rest is simply details.

Thanks for your time.

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About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.