3 Steps to Victory Over Tyranny of the Urgent
What’s Killing YOUR Productivity?
Meet Your Sheep
You may not have actual sheep like Solomon’s audience 2,500 years ago. But, you do have a flock of “P.R.I.O.R.” commitments: Projects, Responsibilities, Ideas, Opportunities, and Relationships. For these God will hold you accountable and reward you (2 Cor. 5:10). Therefore, “knowing the condition of your flocks and giving careful attention to your herds” is of critical importance to you.
You’re Free. Don’t be a Slave
Victory is Temporary. But, Worth It.
In Genesis 3 world, we must understand the tyranny of the urgent as a tension to be managed rather than a problem to be solved. Distraction isn’t going away.
Bottom Line, Bullet Point Strategy:
Here’s the cut to the chase version – in 3 steps. I detail them below. But, start here.
Since we’ll never live in a distraction free world, our battle plan must at minimum contain this three pronged attack:
- Work from a prayerful plan
- Mind the flock AND the field
- Adjust the real based on the ideal
1 – Plan Your Day in Advance
Some folk have a “live and die by the calendar” mindset, others work from a revisable plan, I use a little of both:
- Daily: I work from a dashboard, not a calendar. It’s my roadmap for each day (here’s a PDF of my version).
- I prepare it the day before – specifically choosing my top 3 MUST do’s,
- I adjust it first thing for changes in the wind, and
- I revise it on the fly as the day moves on;
- I migrate incomplete/interrupted tasks at the end of every day to the next day or next appropriate, open slot in my calendar. Daily “sheep migration” is non-negotiable in preventing the “it fell through the cracks” phenomenon.
- Weekly & Monthly: calendars (Google Calendar, Outlook, or paper) are prayerfully wielded yardsticks for decisions about the on the fly changes.
Evernote: As an Evernote Certified Consultant, I use this app as a “digital file cabinet” to store evvverything, but also as a daily and weekly queue for upcoming tasks, checklists, project plans, and supporting/reference material related to each project.
For a 5 minute tutorial on how I set up and optimize Evernote, contact me. We’re producing an “Evernote Setup Video” for Clean Slate late 2nd quarter, 2017. Both Evernote and Microsoft’s One Note are available for Android, IOS, desktop and web, so there’s no excuse for not using one of these other than “I just didn’t know.” And… now you know. No excuses, mkay?
Step 2 – Eyes on the Flock, Keep Off the Grass
Take Stock of Your Flock
Understanding your “field to flock ratio” – how much time you have compared to how much needs to get done – is your responsibility. Most often that happens by default. Our job will be to make it happen by design.
Step 3 – Measure Twice, Cut Once
Once you’ve answered the question “which sheep do I need to uncommit to?” and cut out of your herd, examine where your time is being spent. Look at your current to-do list. David Allen classifies all of his “sheep and goats” in 3 categories:
- Pre-defined work – projects you’ve already outlined and the action items that need to be done, phone calls or emails you need to make/send – “Write 3rd quarter marketing plan”, “Write & send quote for Marshall job”, “Generate sales report”.
- Work that shows up – fires that need putting out, calls to answer, customers who walk in, co-worker drive by’s (“cool story, bro/can I bother you for a minute of your time?”)
- Defining our work – Plans to be made, deciding who to delegate sub-projects to and what outcomes should look like. Extracting actionable items from meeting notes. “Create project plan for Mom & Dad’s 50th Anniversary”.
Real vs. Ideal
Alice – graphic designer. Most of her work is doing the creative work based on client discussions and proposed outcomes, she spends a few hours a week tweaking things based on client approvals and emails, and a few hours deciding how to approach each new client’s needs.
But, she knows her time would be best spent working on projects she’s already defined. With some prayer and planning she sees she can expand this time block (blue) by automating (green) and delegating a few admin tasks (red), capturing wildly inspiring ideas into a trusted system like Evernote (red). These changes grow her time to do the creative stuff God really wired her for and her clients absolutely rave about!
Shahid – bank customer service. This front line customer service role requires a bulk of his time for handling walk in customer needs (70%), with some time meeting with customers with whom he’s booked appointments about new or existing business (15%) and the remainder on reviewing current client accounts and finding ways to help diversify their portfolios and mitigate their investment risks (15%). He can’t become totally unavailable, but he knows he could shift a few hours from “firefighting” mode to “project” mode.
He creates an FAQ document to minimize a little “could I ask you a quick question” time, begins daily reviewing his calendar before the bank opens, and creates short blocks of “unavailable” time to research current market trends. Now he’s creating better quality solutions for his clients in less time.
Once you’ve begun paying attention to where your most precious resource is being eaten, you can then make better decisions about how you’ll spend it in the future. Hopefully, those decisions will be in line with why you’re here on planet earth and Whom you’re ultimately here to serve. You want more help in this area? Message me on Linked In!
I repeat, none of these steps are “one time things”. They’re processes I’ve installed in my monthly and quarterly calendars. If you don’t have at least a weekly planning block to perform a post mortem on your past week, I suggest driving that stake in the sand now for a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday “appointment with self” to do the grunt work of a faithful flock management. You will be held accountable at the bema seat, why not minimize your losses now, while there’s time and opportunity?