Don't Let The Urgent Crowd Out The Important
That's me and Claire…she now looks me straight in the eyes when we stand together.
I am sitting at my dining table on a beautiful day in Los Angeles. Sunshine pours through the windows and I can see the Hollywood sign 25 miles or so in the distance. The scene makes me introspective, inviting me to think:
- How will I motivate myself this year?
- What are my real priorities?
- Am I serving my clients?
- Am I raising the bar for my staff?
- How can I continue to grow as a professional, as a Father, as a Husband?
Then I am tempted, as usual, to put these thoughts aside and get to work, because like most of us, I don't allow myself the luxury of thinking when there is so much to do.
But, before I act on the impulse to stop thinking and start doing, I hear in my head, inexplicably, the voice of the man from the Dos Equis commercials saying: "I don't often take time to think, but when I do, I turn to Stephen Covey." More accurately Stephen Covey's diabolically simple question:
"If there was one thing you did consistently and well, that you KNOW would have a positive impact on your professional life, what would it be?"
A simple and seemingly fair question. Please, I invite you to take one minute and sincerely reflect on what your answer to this question would be.
Now, write it down.So, Now What?
Ask yourself: Is what I wrote down urgent? Is there a clear and pressing deadline to do this? Will the whole house of cards fall down if I don't do this today or even this week? 99.9% of you will say no, it is not an urgent matter.
Why is this important?
The question asks you to list something you KNOW will have a positive impact. Simple enough. The answer to it is usually achievable with a bit of effort. So, Steven Covey's follow up question is to my great discomfort, "So why don't you do it?"
Ouch, that physically hurt. Did I just write down something that I know for a fact, if I did consistently and well would be clearly beneficial to my professional life and myself? Did I then just have it casually tossed in my face by the always-pleasant Mr. Covey that it likely wouldn't get done? Answer: Yes.
Doesn't he understand how busy I am?Separating The Important From The Urgent
Doesn't he understand that oftentimes I really don't want to think but am always willing to do? In fact, I often long for the client emergency, the crisis, the phone call that forces my hand into action. I wait for the punch that allows me not to think and plan, but merely counterpunch. Unfortunately, I think Mr. Covey understood this very well…he just didn't care. He understood that the daily doing is often the enemy of the daily growing. Cue the old saying: "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."
When we ask ourselves these questions, we are asking ourselves to separate the important from the urgent. To acknowledge that we can achieve real personal and professional growth only if we stop, reflect on our answers, and then act. As you can see it is so much more than just "good time management skills" or the ability to prioritize work-life balance.
Ask the question. First as it is written and then secondly substitute the words personal life for professional life. The answers have informed my goals for the 1st quarter of 2015. Now on to creating the plan. Let me know if I can help.
Kevin Catlin - Insight Strategies, Inc.
"Don't let the urgent crowd out the important" - My sister, Kelly Catlin
"A goal without a plan is just a wish" - Antoine de Saint Exupery