Let us begin this week with trying to answer the following questions:
- What is required of you?
- What is your strength zone?
- What are your priorities?
Finding answers to these questions will help in planning and staying focused. A few years ago I enjoyed taking a course in scuba diving and the course included a very simple but powerful instruction: “Plan the dive, dive the plan.” A dive is normally done in pairs and since ways of communication underwater are limited to sign language, it is important to sit down together before taking the plunge and agree on a few important things like: What is the objective of this dive? How deep will we go? How long will we stay down there? And how long do we take to surface again? Once agreed and confident that the equipment is double checked and in order, the dive can begin and next comes the most difficult part and that is to remember and stick to the plan. Sometimes conditions under water turn out to be different than expected, requiring some adjustments but the main outline is clear and the plan is followed as much as possible. I have always found this a valuable lesson and may be applied in planning the way we manage our business, organization and life. In other words: “Plan your life, live your plan.” And you will find that you will only be able to do this effectively when you have clearly defined your objectives, while your values provide a useful compass on the way. Next comes to actually stick to your plan and carry it out. This sounds simple but is probably one of the most difficult things to do as we are often taken off track by unimportant issues and urgencies, giving us a feeling of accomplishment (“I have been so busy.”) but turning out to be time wasters instead. In other words, prioritise and a simple way of doing this is to sit down a few minutes and list down the most important things that need to be done, prioritise them and begin working on them one by one until completed. Don’t worry if you have finished only one or two at the end of the day but instead be confident that you have been working on the most important issues. A survey carried out by Day Timers Inc. in America showed that only one third of workers plan their daily schedules and that only 9% follow through and complete what they planned. What results would a similar survey show amongst us here? The German novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said: ”Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” If you prioritize your life and plan your day but don’t follow through, your results will be the same as those of someone who didn’t prioritize at all. Now evaluate yourself and think again.
Now that you know what it is that needs to be done and now that you actually start working on the most important issues, you may find out that you cannot do it all by yourself. This is when effective delegation comes in, which most of us find very difficult to do. We need to realize however that we cannot do everything ourselves and that while we work on our priorities, routine tasks need to continue. More often than not we have difficulties to let go and trust others to do what we normally do ourselves. A guideline that John C. Maxwell suggests is that if someone else can do a task 80 percent as well as yourself, hand it off. And if you do a good job of motivating, encouraging and rewarding, that person will only get better and in the end may even be doing a better job than you could yourself. Such people are so valuable because they now begin to allow you to work on your priorities.
One more thing to realise is that every day we are surrounded by other people we spent much time relating to. This is no less important in this country where relationships are so valued. But are we spending time with the right people? People, who can take us to another level, who help us to move forward? Or are we spending time with people who instead take us back and distract us from what we should be doing? So while you want to treat everyone with respect and try and have a good, positive relationship with everyone, you should not be spending time with everyone equally.
Back to the questions at the beginning of this article, here follow some suggestions that will help you find answers and thus will help you focus more:
Make a realistic assessment of what it is that you must do in your role as employer, employee, leader, volunteer, husband, wife, chairman etc. And if you are in a leadership position ask yourself what it is that you must personally do and cannot be delegated to others.
Some activities yield a much higher return for the effort to put in than others do. Find out what those activities are and focus your attention on those high return activities.
If you do only what you must and what is effective, you will be highly productive but you may not be content. It is important to consider what brings personal satisfaction.
We all make mistakes. Learn from them and move on. You have to take the risk of failing to find your successes.
Ask others what they think of your performance. Be sure though to choose people who really want to support and coach you.
Priorities don’t stay the same and they need to be revisited every day because conditions change all the time. And so do methods of getting things done. How you carry them out needs to be flexible. Your values, once defined, are steady though and you will be able to rely on them and stay focused indeed.
Source: “Today Matters” by John C. Maxwell