Entrepreneurs and CEOs are busy people. Too busy. Many are focused on too many priorities, or they are micro-managing their direct reports. They look downward at the organization rather than outward where the true value of their organization lies. As a result, the right outcomes are elusive. The most important company objectives are missed. Or even when accomplished the effort has been excessive.
“Busyness” is not the business of the lead executive. One might sense that she, by her busyness, demonstrates to the world how intently engaged in the pursuit of success she is; however, that pursuit will always be just that — a pursuit.
Your cell phone is ringing. Texts are buzzing. The computer screen is flashing. Calendar notifications are pinging. Colleagues are clamoring. Reminders of missed deadlines are nagging. You get the picture, and it ain’t an Ansel Adams production!
If you are the leader and if this scenario sounds too close to home, I have a personal challenge for you.
Find Quiet, Uninterrupted Time
Find — no, make— quiet, uninterrupted time today. No phones. No computers. No interruptions. With pen in hand, lay before you a blank sheet of paper and think about the following. If you were to invest at least 50 percent of your business time for the next 90 days on a single initiative within your company, what would it be and how would it benefit your business? In other words, among all the things you could do that would help your company, what would be the most valuable? If Peter Drucker were to be at your side, he would guide you to ask yourself, “What can I contribute? What can I and no one else do which, if done really well, would make a real difference to this company?” You see this clearly. Now write! Write it down and plan your actions. Less truly is more.
A consistently significant challenge for all is to get at the things that are truly essential and stop doing or delegate the rest. More than likely, to accomplish this, you’ll have to change your way of thinking. As Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism, says, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” If you find yourself too busy, but not productive or chasing other people’s agendas, rethink how to structure the investment of your time and energy. And remember, you cannot manage time. It simply rolls forward as it always has and always will. You can only manage how you apply yourself during the time available.
For those familiar with Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits,” you may recall Habit 3 “Put First Things First” where he challenges leaders with the question, “Am I able to say ‘no’ to the unimportant, no matter how urgent, and ‘yes’ to the important.” Covey’s venerable management matrix relegates tasks into four quadrants with the vertical axis separated by important and not important; and, the horizontal axis, urgent or not urgent.
Where to Find Inspiration
If you are not sure about what should be your focus, ask those who work with you and who are committed to your organization’s success. What do they truly need from you, which they can’t do themselves? What do they recommend that you and you alone can and should do to help the business now? This feedback will, in turn, help you realize what you need to let go. Give it away!
Most likely, if you create quietude on a consistent basis, you will see clearly that which is yours alone to accomplish. Moreover, to think this way you’ll have to adopt an essentialist attitude. The essentialist’s credo is “The disciplined pursuit of less.” Contrast that way of thinking to the nonessentialist who takes on everything: “The undisciplined pursuit of more.”
As an essentialist, you say no to everything except the essential. On the other hand, “The nonessentialist says yes to people without really thinking.”
At the end of a recent two-day, annual planning session, the owner and principal leader of an entrepreneurial organization said to his leadership team, “For us to be successful this year, I need to drop most of what I have been doing and focus almost exclusively on growing the number of customers. I have the vision. I have the passion. I have the capacity. I am critical to this effort. If I don’t, we will fail. Many other activities are worthy of my attention, but none is so important as this.” He then pulled from his briefcase a notebook calendar and said, “Every Sunday after church I will plan my week. I promise that I will invest myself in the absolutely most important initiative.”
So, like this fully committed leader, find that one most valuable activity on which you can spend half your business time in the next 90 days. Focus on it with relentless discipline. Resist the distractions that are bound to come along, or delegate them! Your team members will thank you. More importantly, you will recognize tremendous progress and be more personally rewarded.
We live in a world where it’s incredibly easy to be distracted by so much. But remember, it’s the essentialist who “Gets the right things done and feels in control.”
Nobody is perfect, yours truly included, but each of us can improve.
I would wish you “good luck,” but you don’t need luck. You only need to choose—and you are fully in control of the outcomes of your life. You can do this!
Download a Free Chapter of How To Be A Great Boss
What if your employees brought their A-game to work every day? Often, the difference between a group of indifferent employees and a fully engaged team comes down to one simple thing: a great boss. Download a free chapter of How To Be A Great Boss.