After I decided to quit my job just over a year ago, I struggled for some time with regaining control over my life. For most of my work life, I have been dragged about by the whirlwind of the corporate work-style. Everything is urgent, and that pretty much leaves no time for the important. The urgency gave me the warm and fuzzy feeling of being busy. Yet, at the end of every day, I really hadn’t worked on the important, because the important requires time to think and the urgent takes away all of that time.
This was really about being in control of what I was doing with my time. And being in control is about saying what you will do, and doing what you have said. So I turned to the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I don’t need to say much about the book except if you have read it, apply the learning, and if you haven’t read it, then get a copy or attend a 7 Habits program in the neighborhood.
The models in the book helped me with practical structures to sift out the important from the urgent, and all that was neither. It brought focus and discipline, and soon, at the end of a day, I felt fulfilled if I had done what I set out to do. The real challenge was in differentiating the urgent from the important.
That’s when I read another fab book titled Quiet Leadership. It’s by David Rock who founded and still runs a company called Results Coaching Systems. The best results would have been if I had someone to take me through the processes in the book, but I managed quite well just by myself.
Done well, the models seriously challenge your thinking. You brainstorm and whiteboard whatever is top of mind for you. Then you force yourself to pick 3 of the dozens of things that are absolutely killing you. Usually it’s hard to do that. But it works if you club common things or sub-points, and simply eliminate some stuff. But don’t pick even one more than 3. Make sure these are things you will be proud of if you achieve them, as in stuff you will talk about and people will go WOW! It works if you create statements with a clear, measurable outcome at the end of a defined period. For example, I want to move X to Y by the end of March. You got your causes! Do a check again. If any of the statements you created results in a Ho Hum response, redo them!
The next step is to identify the 2-3 things you need to do to make each of those causes happen. You could look at these as lead indicators. For example, if your smashing goal is to run a 5 minute mile 1 year from now, your lead indicators could be getting into 3 days of weight training a week, running 3 miles a day and appointing a running coach. Then your everyday goal would have the daily breakdown of these things in the 7 Habits framework.
At the end of the exercise, you will get over the dilemma of differentiating between the urgent and the important. And as you practice this day after day, for goal after goal, watch the control you get over yourself. Watch the most difficult thing in life happen – a change in your habits to achieve what you really want to do. The stress caused by the whirlwind will go out of the window, and you will work only on things that are important. And at the end of each day, you will be satisfied about saying what you will do, and doing what you have said.