I spent the entire day writing – it was great. I shut down my email except for two or three check ins associated with meal breaks – glorious. Although not what I was writing about (I am putting the finishing touches on the 2 Weeks to a Breakthrough book), I thought about the importance of doing one great
thing each day. Here are a few paragraphs from a chapter I wrote about this topic in Focus Like a Laser Beam, which will be out in about
The concept of one great things helps me stay focused and disciplined because the other stuff is just stuff. Let me know what you think.
"I’ve learned that you can’t have everything and do everything at the same time." Oprah Winfrey
Laura is a smart and motivated vice president for a growing medium sized company. She maintains a detailed to-do list and works full tilt from the moment she gets to the office until she leaves. She brings some work home, too. From meetings to planning to phone calls and e-mails to creative work, her day slips away. Her whole department works at the speed of light. But Laura lacks focus and she often leaves the office feeling as though she has not accomplished much of anything. What a tragedy! Laura is a talented and engaged leader. Any company would be lucky to have her on their leadership team. And yet, she is killing herself everyday and not making enough of a difference to the business. Her brave efforts have she and her team heading for burn out.
Laura is not alone. Many hardworking leaders are frustrated and dissatisfied with their results. Many create this problem for themselves by saying, "yes," to many things. Too many things. Yeses that fill their days and their team´s days. Days filled to the point that many great tasks get shortchanged or pushed aside. The trouble with yes it is often applied to the wrong questions.
"Yes, we can do that."
"Yes, I will attend the meeting."
"Yes, I have a few minutes."
"Yes, that would be nice."
"Yes, we have the budget (or we can juggle a few things around)."
These questions become the relevancy barometer for tasks that could fill 100 to-do lists. Think about that. How many items on your to-do list are there because you can do them and they are good things to do? Talented leaders can do many things. This does not mean that they should. In fact, senior managers should value leadership resources and take care not to squander them on marginal work.
And the yeses roll down hill, filling up to-do lists throughout the organization to the point the part-time interns can´t get all their work done. When leaders agree to a project or task, they often commit their team´s time and energy. Many employees do not feel comfortable managing up to ask questions about why the tasks keep coming. On way to help pare down your team´s list is to ask your employees their thoughts on what they do that does not make sense or support the most important goals.