Yesterday you reflected on your actions from the previous day and your thinking behind your choices. As we wrap up this week, let’s look again at the three epiphanies:
The big idea is that we should be making intentional decisions about how we spend our time.
The subtext to this emphasis on intentionality is that we often make decisions unconsciously.
You followed me through my busy day on Monday and we dissected some of my thinking on Wednesday. We saw a couple places where I could have been more intentional about my decisions. But what about you?
Take 2-5 minutes and reflect on the things you identified yesterday.
The three epiphanies empower you to choose and to be aware of your values in making those choices. When you are intentional about your choices, you can begin to get off the treadmill of the urgent.
Next week we will focus on rewriting your mental algorithms to emphasize importance over urgency.
Do good and be well,
How was your busy day?
Yesterday we made some observations about things I chose/didn’t choose to do on my busy day from Monday’s post.
Today, you can reflect on your own busy day. I’ll describe the minimal approach that you can do in about three minutes.
The point of this exercise is to understand how and why you made your decisions, not to evaluate them.
Step 1: List out several things you did on one of your recent days
This works best if you choose a combination of mundane/routine, important, and unexpected things. You could also add something from your to-do list that did not get done. Just think of one thing for each of those categories unless you have 20-30 minutes to work through your full day.
For example, my three for Tuesday would have been:
Step 2: What could you have done instead?
You could do this for each thing or for the day in general. Simply put, if you had chosen to not do something what could or would you have done instead?
Step 3: Think about the decisions behind your choices
Tomorrow, we’ll think about being more intentional about choosing your activities.
I’d really like some feedback on this post. Did you have any “aha” moments? You can email me your aha if you had one.
Do good and be well,
On Monday we looked at “my” busy day. Yesterday we looked at three epiphanies that pave the way for developing a strategic mindset:
Today, we will apply the second and third epiphanies to my busy day in order to understand what choices I made. The point of this is not to judge my decisions as being good or bad, but to better understand when and why I made them. The regular font is from Monday’s vignette and the blue italics are today’s commentary.
I give a cursory nod and mumble good morning to my colleagues as they walk by my desk, most of them as intent on getting started as I was.
I prioritized my needs to get things done and passed on the opportunity to build a sense of community in my workplace.
Although I try and focus on my inbox, several different people come to me with questions over the course of the next 90 minutes.
I decide to lower by efficiency with email in exchange for helping my colleagues and possibly learning some useful information.
Despite the progress, I get bogged down in answering some resource availability questions from Didier, the lead manager for project Blue. I leave that email half completed…
Why? Maybe because I’m afraid of giving half an answer, so I delay until I can give a “perfect” answer, perhaps knowing that I won’t really be able to address the issue satisfactorily?
I leave the office briefly to grab lunch at the local fast food place and return to eat at my desk. I gobble down my meal as I review a report on the project Red status, which I need to submit next week.
Again, I pass on the opportunity to build community by eating lunch with my colleagues. They also probably passed on that opportunity. I value the quality of work above my own health, at least in this case as I choose to get to the office early and eat unhealthily as opposed to spending extra time at home assembling a nutritious meal.
After lunch I spend 90 minutes working on the presentation that I’ll use to summarize the project Red report. I check email again and respond to a few things.
Why did I feel compelled to check email here? What was my priority?
I manage to get Gregg and Akira’s issue resolved but arrive late to my afternoon meeting.
I chose to finish resolving the issue and prioritized it over being punctual to the meeting.
It’s mostly informational and I’m relieved that I didn’t miss anything important. I review the agenda as I sit down. None of it really applies to me and I spend the next 45 minutes trying to look interested while surreptitiously responding to texts and email on my phone.
I chose to spend 45 minutes in a meeting that didn’t help me. Did I do that because I would make someone angry if I didn’t show up? Maybe I didn’t know it would be useless for me? Or is this a standing meeting that occurs weekly and is always a waste of time, meaning that I would rather comply than advocate for a more effective meting format? Or should the meeting have been meaningful, and I just didn’t pay close enough attention to see it?
I doubt Nadia is going to make it through the first year. I add the complaint to my file and check the metrics on Nadia’s performance over the past two months. I spend 45 minutes crafting an email to Nadia inquiring about the situation and noting my disappointment in the metrics.
I choose to document a situation and confront (via email) a colleague about her poor performance. I view documentation as both an ethical and policy priority.
I sigh deeply and begin to add the other things I didn’t get done: Reach out to James, one of my new reports.
I prioritize responding to urgent matters above investing time that will only yield dividends in the future and prioritize the urgency of my tasks above the mentoring or training needs of a new employee.
Oh, did I ever finish the presentation?
If I don’t have a system for clearly identifying priority tasks, do I value the adrenalin rushes that go along with being on the treadmill of the urgent above the long-term needs of my organization, or even myself? Or is it simply fear that drives me to respond and react instead of planning and executing?
Of course, it’s not that simple. It isn’t just about our priorities because others have their own priorities. However, becoming aware of our choices allows us to take the first step off the treadmill by becoming intentional about how we invest our time.
Tomorrow I’ll walk you through an examination of some of your own recent choices.
Do good and be well,
Yesterday we read about a day in my (or your) life. The themes were a bit generic, but they represented the kinds of challenges facing leaders in almost every sector.
There are three specific things I want to draw your attention to in this vignette:
Epiphany 1: There is Not Enough Time
As hard as I worked, starting early, working through lunch, ending late, I still could not get everything done. Think about how many times have you said to yourself, or another, “I don’t have enough time to get this all done!” At one level, you know this is the reality. However, if you are like me, you have denied that reality for a long time. If you just worked harder, if you were just better organized, if you could just control your email, if you could…! So, stop and accept it. There is not enough time, and that’s the reality. While this can be an overwhelming conclusion, it can also be liberating. I still remember the conversation that triggered this epiphany for me. I was talking with a wonderful elementary school principal and I asked her how she got everything done. She replied, “I don’t. I’ll never be able to get it all done, but what I don’t do today will be there waiting for me tomorrow.” Her simple acceptance that it can’t all get done was a game-changer for me.
Epiphany 2: I Choose Where to Invest My Time
If I accept that I can’t do it all, then I need to make choices about what gets done and what doesn’t. In the vignette, I chose to focus on my email instead of network with my colleagues. I chose to invest a certain amount of time in the presentation. I chose not to reach out to my new report, James. While this seems obvious, think about how little thought I actually put into my choices.
Here’s the wonderful thing about accepting that it can’t all get done: You choose what gets done and what doesn’t. It may not feel like you have choices because you have been unintentional about making them. However, the first big step to getting off of the treadmill is to embrace the idea that you do make choices. You can choose to run on autopilot from urgent task to urgent task, or you can choose to make purposeful decisions based on criteria that reflect your priorities. This brings us to the third epiphany.
Epiphany 3: My Choices Reflect My Priorities
For me, this has been the most challenging of the three epiphanies. It is scary because it forces me to confront some inconsistencies between my beliefs and my actions. Tomorrow, we will dissect my day in a bit more detail by examining the choices I made. I’m not concerned with establishing whether these were good or bad choices. What’s important is to understand where and why I made the choices. Becoming conscious of our choices is a necessary step to becoming more intentional about making them in the first place.
If you’d like to get a head start on tomorrow, take a minute to think about what you did and didn’t do yesterday. Did you make conscious choices based on specific criteria?
Do good and be well,
Ever Have a Day Like This?
Being a strategic leader begins with having a strategic mindset. This week, we begin understanding that mindset. The week will look like this:
A day in the life…
It’s a Monday and I get to work an hour early so I can follow up and respond to all the messages that have piled up over the weekend. I give a cursory nod and mumble good morning to my colleagues as they walk by my desk, most of them as intent on getting started as I am. Although I try and focus on my inbox, several different people come to me with questions over the course of the next 90 minutes. Despite the interruptions, I’m able to respond to about half of my email by multitasking through our conversations. Still, I get bogged down in answering some resource availability questions from Didier, the lead manager for project Blue. I leave that email half completed and put together an agenda for a meeting I’m leading tomorrow but I can’t complete it because Esther and I never finished a conversation that was necessary to shape the meeting. I email Esther to set up a phone call. By now I am on my third cup of black coffee.
I leave the office briefly to grab lunch at the local fast food place and return to eat at my desk. I gobble down my meal as I review a report on the project Red status, which I need to submit next week. There is a lunch table in a break room, but most of us rarely use it.
After lunch I spend 90 minutes working on the presentation that I’ll use to summarize the project Red report. I check email again and respond to a few things. Later in the afternoon I get a call from Gregg complaining about Akira, who is “screwing up” the project they are working on. This is a surprise to me and I spend two hours emailing back and forth between the pair trying to figure out the problem.
I manage to get Gregg and Akira’s issue resolved but arrive late to my afternoon meeting. It’s mostly informational and I’m relieved that I didn’t miss anything important. I review the agenda as I sit down. None of it really applies to me and I spend the next 45 minutes trying to look interested while surreptitiously responding to texts and email on my phone. I run to my next meeting which is a project meeting led by Abhijit. I return the call from my doctor’s office as I walk down the hallway, hoping for good news on the test results. While the meeting with Abhijit is critical, Abhijit is disorganized. There is no agenda, and by the time we get half-way through the meeting I realize that we need some information that Akira has, but she was not invited to the meeting. We take a break and I call Akira to get the information. By this point I’m pretty frustrated. I was communicating with Akira all morning and it would have been simple to get that information ahead of time had I known it was needed.
After the meeting I check my voice mails. There is another complaint about Nadia. I doubt Nadia is going to make it through the first year. I add the complaint to my file and check the metrics on Nadia’s performance over the past two months. I spend 45 minutes crafting an email to Nadia inquiring about the situation and noting my disappointment in the metrics. After sending the email, I spend another 45 minutes dealing with all the email I received during the afternoon, including a chain of 15 emails from Gregg and Akira that I am copied on.
As I wrap up my day I realize I never got the information about resources for Didier. I scribble it down on my to-do list for tomorrow. I sigh deeply, and begin to add the other things I didn’t get done:
Regarding names: All names were pulled from the list of 2018 and 2019 Nobel Prize winners.
Do good and be well,