If I had a dollar for every time a client asked for advice on how to get the important things done, I would be sipping a piña colada on a beach in the Bahamas 24/7!!
Not that that would be good for my health, but you get my point!
No client has ever come to me and anguished over how much free time they have and don’t know what to do to fill their day.
But every client laments how stretched they are, how busy they are and how difficult it is to get everything done.
Recognize this? Of course you do! The to do lists just keep growing and growing and for every task we cross out, we have added two more – really frustrating isn’t it?
So, what do we do about it? Well, my first question is pretty much always the same, and it leads to a lengthy conversation. The question is:
What are the important things that must get done?
You see in many situations the most important thing to get done is the one that is being shouted for the loudest, the problem that has just landed on your desk or the work where the deadline is tomorrow and you have done little or nothing. If this sounds like your life, then you are fire fighting.
But are they the important things?
You need to step back and get great clarity around your key goals for that year, that month, that week, that day. If you have not got that you have no context for knowing whether the next task on your to do list is “important” or not.
Once you have your goals clear, then the next step is to map out the key actions that you need to take to achieve that goal.
In my coaching experience, this is where so many get lost. For many the thought process is – “I have now defined my goals, so I know where I am going” I don’t necessarily agree. Of course you need to set the goals, but unless you map out the step by step process that will get you to your goal, you only have half the job done.
What would a step by step process look like?
Let me give you an example. Say, I am a tile manufacturer and I want to expand into a new market segment that I have identified, a simple step by step process would include the following:
- Clarity about the segment – size, maturity, geographical spread etc
- Research how profitable a segment it is
- Who are the key players?
- Who is my competition – their strengths and weaknesses?
- How attractive am I to this segment, now and in the future?
- Who in this market will I target?
- What resources do I currently have that I can use to tackle this market, and what new resources do I need?
- What is my plan of action?
This is not meant to be the definitive list, but it gives you an idea of the process. The next challenge is to decide which elements I will do and which ones will be done by others – assuming you have others! Otherwise, it is all you!! Also, you will set time deadlines beside each one to prevent drift.
So, how does this help me get the important things done?
Well, if I owned this business then this project would be one of my key goals for the year and I am now clear about the “important things to get done” for that goal. I would then repeat this exercise for each of my key goals, so that I have identified all the key activities that I need to move forward to achieve my goals.
This is then the backdrop and context for my weekly and daily planning. When you come to plan your week, you decide what activities are necessary to progress each goal and having all of that mapped out, I guarantee you will have to make choices because you will not be able to do everything. You need to decide and prioritize which ones you will tackle this week – and then, guess what? YOU NOW HAVE YOUR IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO FOR THIS WEEK!!!
Is that it? Is it done and dusted?
I’m sorry to say, but no! The next step is critical – you must put each of those key tasks into your diary just as if they are appointments with yourself, and they are every bit as sacrosanct as a meeting with your best customer!! Failure to do this bit will just ensure you have the same frustration as you have right now. Research has proven that if you commit to an action at a specific time, on a specific date, at a designated location there is a 91% probability that it will get done. If your decision is that you will do this task sometime during this week, you only have a 29% probability of dong it. I prefer the 91% because that leads to success.
So, now tell me – what gets in your way when you try to get the important things done?
If you don’t want to share it in the comments section, just put your name and email in the box on this page, tell me what your challenges are and I will answer with my best advice.