Change ManagementMotivation to Tackle ChangeNew Year PlanningStrategic Thinking and PlanningTime ManagementVisioning

Are You Focusing Your Time on the Right Things?

As responsible people doing our best to satisfy competing demands, we tolerate, and maybe even thrive a bit on figuring out how to squeeze in more and more. Although we may talk about our desire to simplify, we often fall far short of our longing.

How do some people go from more to less with better results?

Juggling personal interests, work commitments, family obligations, social schedules and community activities, while trying to please everyone along the path, leaves little time for big picture thinking.

Without a compelling reason (often health related or a work crisis) we don’t stop the motion to think about whether all of the activity makes sense. Once in a while we take vacation, and even these escapes seem to be getting shorter and shorter (an Expedia poll shows that, on average, most Americans get two weeks off, but 21 percent of them fail to use more than six of their vacation days. Most took one week and scattered the rest of their days throughout the year). By the time our mind starts to clear, it is time to return to the daily routine.

We may feel like a bit of a superhero when we count the number of tasks we regularly check off the daily ‘to do’ list, but it is likely that we never stop to think about whether we are actually moving forward. Activity in and of itself, without a clearly focused plan can drain energy and distract us from what’s really important. The real challenge is not to get it all done, but to figure out how to cut through the clutter and focus.

So how do we go from doing everything to doing what really matters?

If you could spend more time each week doing what makes you come alive, what would you be doing?

One of my clients runs a transportation company with about 300 employees. The activity that she loves most in her business is working with prospects and clients on innovative strategies to save these companies money. When I asked what percentage of her is spent doing this during the week, her response, “maybe 10%”. I then asked what impact it would have on the business if she spent more time with clients and prospects working on money saving strategies.  Without missing a beat she responded “those conversations are new business generators”. Motivating and productive!

It is not shocking to hear that when you spend more time in activities that motivate you, it naturally leads to greater levels of happiness and success. The catch is that it is often hard to identify and act on the ideas that can make a difference in our own situations. Even with the best intentions for ourselves, our businesses and our teams, the natural inclination is to think about all of the reasons it can’t work, as opposed to what is possible. When you feel yourself starting to discount good ideas because of the challenges, enlist help.

When trying to grow a business, the most effective way is not with a shot-gun approach that tries to cover every possibility. A better use of time is an investment in thinking about what activities are the most important.

The quality of daily decisions increases with our ability to stay focused on long-term goals. The feeling of pressure to deliver short term results can be paralleled to the challenge that public companies face. The tradeoff is often long-term value.

With all of life’s daily demands and seemingly pressing priorities, what is the best use of your time and money? Think about how you make decisions today. The decision to take on a new opportunity (project, position, volunteer role, or a favor for a friend or family member) is a tough call without having a well defined vision and a plan.

Make 2015 the year you focus on what is really important. With clarity will come simplicity and more time spent on the things that make you come alive.

Written by Helene Mazur

Helene is the founder of Princeton Performance Dynamics, an executive coaching and strategic planning facilitation company for business and non-profit leaders and their teams. Helene’s passion is helping her clients to focus their goals, see new perspectives on their current situation, put in place realistic, motivating plans, and execute to achieve new levels of success.

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