A sense of perspective

At the start of each month I have a recurring priority scheduled in my task list. It reminds me that at some stage in that week, I need to sit down and get some perspective. To take some time out from doing, and spend some time thinking about my top 10 BIG priorities for the month ahead.

So, when the time comes, I set myself up in a quiet space with a coffee and print-out a two-page template that helps me to prioritise. It is my version of a prioritisation strategy used in the project management industry to prioritise competing projects called forced-ranked prioritisation. Essentially it forces me to compare my list of ten priorities against each other to come up with a sequenced list from most important, to least important.

Now, this list is not a list of things to do. It is not at the task level of granularity. It is a list of projects, issues or opportunities that I would like to move forward in a significant way this month. This is about the BIG picture, and about getting some perspective into my thinking.

Once I have ranked each priority against the other priorities and come up with a prioritised sequence, I gain some valuable perspective about what I should be spending my time on over the coming weeks. Out of this list should drop next-step actions that get scheduled into my calendar or task list. This creates traction, and ensures that how my time is being spent is a healthy balance of proactive as well as reactive work. It focuses my attention, and ensure that my work is driven by importance, not just by urgency.

This week, a pretty busy few days turned into a light few days as two client engagements rescheduled at short notice. Some days in the office – gold! How could I best use that time? To work that out, I turned to my Top 10 list and eyed my top three priorities on the list. Two days later I have moved several significant pieces of work forward. Work that will add substantial value to my business in the long term.

My suspicion is that without doing the prioritisation exercise last week, I might have spent the last two days ‘catching up’ with myself. Clearing emails and faffing around with the small stuff. Instead, I knew exactly what deserved my time.

What is your strategy for gaining perspective? Do you have one? If not, please send me an email and it would be my pleasure to send my Monthly Top 10 prioritisation tool to you

Watch out for the Procrastination Pixie

My most important priority today was my hardest priority. I had set myself the task of starting a complex whitepaper, which held enormous value but needed some deep thinking and writing. I had a couple of meetings in the morning, and a few emails to send, but had blocked some time over the lunch period to work on writing.

Because I had blocked the time out in my calendar, I stopped what I was doing when the alert popped up, opened the document, and set to writing. The first thing I needed was a quote to open the paper. As I went to search for a good quote to use, the Procrastination Pixie came to visit!

Forty-five minutes later, I found myself on the floor putting together an office stool I had bought over the weekend. As I screwed in the final leg, I realised that this is not what I should be doing. I was meant to be writing the whitepaper! How on earth had this happened?

As I sat there, I ran through what I had done in the last forty-five minutes. It seems that on looking for the quote, I saw an online post worth reading, and commenting on. I then realised I needed a coffee, so I popped next door for a takeaway. I then made a quick call, and on hanging up I decided to put together my new stool. All without once being aware that I was procrastinating. It was like a Procrastination Pixie had come and taken over my mind, and mischievously diverted my attention to less important things. I was honestly gobsmacked at how easily I had been diverted from my most important task.

How often does the Pixie come to you?

Procrastinating is human, and happens to all of us. The most productive people catch themselves and manage the procrastination.

If you want to avoid procrastinating about hard, complex or distasteful work, try the following:

  • Schedule this work in your calendar and be specific about when you will do it

  • Work for short periods on complex work. They reckon 45 minutes is optimal

  • Turn off interruptions – email, phone and people (book a meeting room and hide)

  • Recognise the work you are likely to procrastinate about and actively commit to staying focused

  • If you catch yourself being diverted, stop the other work immediately and get back on task

This is a true story. It happened today. Many of you will be pleased to know that I am human!



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