Leaders: preoccupied with all you have to do?

The inconsistent, unproductive preoccupation with all the things we have to do is the single largest consumer of time and energy. ~Kerry Gleeson

The most common answer I receive to the question “how’s work?” is “busy.” As I’ve become more involved with helping leaders wrangle all that busyness, I’ve discovered that what makes it so consuming is the lack of a system to house and organize all that stuff that’s swirling around in their minds.

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, puts it this way.

What should be different?

Most often, the reason something is on your mind is that you want it to be different than it currently is, and yet:

  • you haven’t clarified exactly what the intended outcome is;
  • you haven’t decided what the very next physical action step is and/or
  • you haven’t put reminders of the outcome and the action required in a system you trust.

That’s why it’s on your mind. Until those thoughts have been clarified and those decisions made, and the resulting data has been stored in a system that you absolutely know you will access and think about when you need to, your brain can’t give up the job.

Clear your mind.

Nearly every author I come across regarding personal productivity (David Allen, Chris Bailey, various FranklinCovey authors, etc.) says the very same thing in their own way. So I think it’s worth repeating, here’s my version.

  • what do you want to be different (which is quite dissimilar from what you want to do)
  • what’s the action step you need to take, this week, to help make that difference happen
  • where are the physical reminders of both the difference you want to make happen and your action steps stored so that you reference them often and rely upon to make decisions how to spend your time

That’s it. It’s both that simple and that challenging. And leaders should be setting the example in their organizations. These are the very basic steps for effective planning, whether it’s on a personal level or an organizational level.

Social psychologist and author Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson says that “When people engage in the right kind of planning, their success rates go up on average between 200 and 300 percent.” That’s really important because, as Dr. Halvorson also said, “Succeeding in something hard is more pleasurable, gives greater satisfaction and happiness, and increases your overall sense of well-being.”

As a leader, are you ready to show others how to shift from an unproductive preoccupation with all you have to do, to planning your priorities and freeing your mind to really lead?

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