Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the tag “Priorities”

Why Do Urgent But Less Important Tasks Drown Out The Really Important?

One of the things that continually amazes me is the split personality that exists within my brain (apologies for the mixed definitions here).

I can have a day like yesterday when I had fantastic conversations with clients and fellow industry CEOs which genuinely moved some of my thinking on. Our corporate strategy will develop positively as a result. I worked on some financial modelling that I’d long planned to. It gave me insights that have informed a whole other set of thoughts that will further impact strategy.

I then did some further reading that extended my thoughts on some issues and opened up whole realms of other thoughts.

Now, this post isn’t to wax lyrically about how effective I’ve been. The first point is that the time investment to achieve the above was probably 3-4 hours in total. Granted, there was travelling, but I worked every minute of that time. The second point is how I felt at the end of the day. Building on my last post, I felt that all the non-important tasks were rightly put in their place. That the siren call of the urgent was drowned by the sense of achievement from the important. I had done the right – commensurate with my responsibilities and accountabilities – things with my day.

Now don’t get me wrong. Today hasn’t been a bad day. Productive things have been done. But the challenge of ignoring the urgent task siren call has been remarkable.

I am left wondering whether it is a personality ‘type’ thing. Does my need for control/ power show itself in a restless frustration when I’m not all over my inbox and detailed task list? Does this undermine my trusted system? Have I just taken what I accept in to my action list too far, such that it’s seeping out at the edges?

I think an interesting flip to observe is that in the situation I am blogging about, my conscious/ other-than-conscious position is reversed. I know what I need to do: the important and less of the urgent. I’m kidnapped though by my other than consciousness.

And I don’t know why.

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Does Ruthless Focus and Time Management Require you to Care Less?

After a week’s holiday relaxing, thinking and practicing my knowledge management, I think I’ve come to a conclusion; albeit one I’ve reached before.

I’ve always had moments of clarity in my productivity when I’ve felt like I had the meaning of life (in a productivity sense :-) at my fingertips.

These moments mainly occur when a project or task which is primarily very important suddenly becomes more urgent. At these points in time I find I am very clear about what I should be spending my time on.

The reasons for this are clear. You are given some set of priorities by external events that you internally agree with (Covey’s Important and Urgent align).

What is very interesting is how my relationship changes with the other ‘previously-prioritized’ items in my life. Firstly, their importance fades away. So far: so obvious. But here’s the fascinating observation to me. It’s as though they never were important. The clarity I have is remarkable in that I see the other non-important items for what they are. Their true lack of importance or lower priority is suddenly obvious.

So what happens when this isn’t the case? When there isn’t a sudden important/urgent. I personally find that the noise of tasks and actions all merges into one. The general stress of ‘to-do’ completion drowns some of my ability to prioritize more subtley. But more importantly, my barriers to the entry of the tasks that I’m not due to be focussing on at that point in time seem so much lower.

The working solution for me? I’m going to trial out a bit of bloody-minded ignorance. Let me act as if I were always in those moments of transparency, and see where that gets me……

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