Welcome to my latest edition of my Reflections on Leadership article series, my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.
What does this have to do with fitness and my weight loss journey? Nothing!
My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the broader vision for Operation Melt…
To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.
I am now 2 full weeks into working a new full time day job after an almost five month sabbatical. While I was out of work I changed up my day-to-day routine and added some new recurring activities.
- I worked out over an hour each day, sometimes significantly more
- I posted multiple times per day in my OperationMelt social media accounts
- I started producing multiple forms of weekly written content
- I started working on building some supporting materials for a future coaching business
- I started focusing on improving my network
- I cooked at home way more often
- I read a lot more and listened to countless podcasts
I really enjoyed each of these new additions and initiatives that I took on and they were all pretty rewarding. Each of them took time and energy but they were absolutely a labor of love and helped me discover previously unknown passions.
Now I am back to work and I need to reallocate over 40 hours of my week to my primary job. That means that I now have less time to continue pursuing all of these initiatives and I am struggling to make it all fit and still achieve the level of quality that meets my own standards.
Some of my struggle will get easier as my routine takes shape but some of it means that I have to make a decision. Do I continue trying to pursue the same scope and let quality suffer or do I need to refine my scope of activities?
While it is going to take me some time to figure out the optimal mix of activities in my portfolio, this has reminded me of an important part of leadership – focus.
Leaders are very aware of the fact that time is not unlimited. They understand a key concept of project management, the triple constraint. That is that all projects are a balance of scope, time and budget/resources and any imbalance between these results in compromising quality.
I think the following quote from Dan Millman summarizes the importance of focus
I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything… at least not at the same time.
So how do you improve your focus?
- Know your goals / priorities. Focusing on the right things always starts with knowing what to focus on. The most important first step to this is to know your goals. By setting clear, measurable, SMART goals, you have a standard to use when determining which projects are most important for you. Here is a pro tip for all of you leaders of people and mentors out there: your top priority should be your people and their development! No matter your goals write them down and keep them visible. This will help them stay top-of-mind.
- Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or “good enough”. Based on your goals, the next step is to figure out what is the least amount you can do in order to achieve this goal. For example is you are focused on working out to maintain your weight and health you need to expend far less energy spend less time working out than if your goal is to lose 100 pounds. In many cases the secret to accomplishing more is to figure out what your minimum threshold is for success.
- Say no. In many cases, the word “no” is the key to accomplishing your biggest goals. If you know what your goals are you can decide which activities don’t align with your current priorities. Then you can say “no” to the other things.
- Do it “later”. Later is more than a way to procrastinate, it is an important way to separate the things that are important to you know from the things that you still want to do, just not today. By shifting some things to a later date you can still focus today and not lost track of the other things that you might like to do.
- Activity Stacking. One way to increase your capacity is through a concept called “activity stacking” or doing more things at once. For example, if you want to read more but you also want to work out more, one option is to switch to audiobooks while you are exercising. Any time you can double up on work, and still give each task the attention needed to meet your quality standards, you have mastered productivity.
- Timebox. One way to ensure that you are spending time on the things that matter is by timeboxing your day. IN your schedule each day carve out sets amount of time that you can work on each of your biggest priorities. Then stick to that time to ensure that you can get to everything.
- Optimize your processes. In some cases you can accomplish more by improving your personal organization and by reducing wasted time. We all waste time here and there so there is opportunity to eliminate some of that wasted time and reinvest in higher priority activities. Not sure where you ware wasting time? Try tracking your time for a week or so to figure out where you are actually spending your time. In productivity, fitness, finances or anywhere else that you have a goal a personal audit is a good tool to use to figure out how to get to that goal.
- Ask for help. A great way to accomplish more of your goals is to engage more resources. Whether you are asking your friends for assistance or delegating to your team leveraging other people is a great way to increase your capacity. You can even buy this capacity through various online services.
- Self care. Another way to help yourself get more done is to care for yourself. By doing things like exercising, getting quality sleep and consuming a healthy diet, your body is in tip top shape to do its best, most focused work.
- Let yourself stray. Sometimes the best outcomes happen when you let yourself stray from the goals you are trying to achieve. By embracing a few distractions and giving yourself permission to take a break from your goal you clear your mind and that can lead to some of your biggest ah-ha moments. Plus this really helps you enjoy the journey. So go easy on yourself when you stray from your path for a short time.
There you have it, 10 very actionable tips to help you focus your time on the most important things.
Call to action: figure out your biggest priorities… what is most important to you. Then leverage the techniques mentioned above to ensure that the way you are investing your time matches your most important priorities. If now, make a change. You have choices and decisions in life and have control over how you invest your time.