I had the pleasure of teaching a class on “Focusing on Priorities” at our local Wayne County Chamber of Commerce last week. Lecturing is not my forte but I have taught many corporate and university classes. I always try to make teaching a more collaborative event. The seminar last week was no exception and most of the ideas that came out of the class were terrific. I am constantly amazed how a random group of folks can come up with much better ideas and content as a group than an individual can. Having everyone find their voice and to be heard by everyone else can be so powerful because others can add to the ideas, reinforce them and make an even more powerful framework for action. I love it. It’s always amazing to experience!
The focus of the class was how to get things done and to diminish the sense of being overwhelmed that comes from the constant barrage of information and requests. We used the Franklin Covey model of the Time Matrix in which you want to spend your time “above the line” or working in areas that are important instead of falling to the areas of what is urgent but not important (i.e. phone calls, email, text and voice mail). It’s also a balance between your own priorities and those of others (i.e. your boss, spouse, parents, clients, etc.).
So for the benefit of all of those who didn’t get to attend, here are some of the ideas that came out of the class:
1. Barricades. There were several thoughts that were related to barricading out interruptions and notification. If you need to work on an important project and want to focus: close the door, turn off the iPhone, turn off all notifications and turn off the internet browser. Proactively barricade the interruptions and attention-grabbers out of your sight.
2. Commit. One of the attendees suggested dedicating a run to someone. So if you plan on running 5 miles on Saturday, dedicate it to your Godmother so that you have a deeper sense of commitment. Or give up something, say Facebook or Twitter for Lent. Commit to something greater than yourself.
3. Chunk. Chuck up the big projects and tasks into smaller parts. This is one of the main reasons folks seek out coaching. They want help chunking and planning out the execution. Setting a time zone and blocking it for writing, exercise, getting one shelf uncluttered or spending 15 minutes on a project. Even creating “e-time” or the time you spend on the internet and answering emails (if your job permits). Plan your chunks, separate them into smaller pieces and then schedule a time to work on them.
4. Calendar. Most of the folks had a calendar for all of their appointments, meetings and important tasks. It doesn’t matter if it’s electronic or paper. Have one location for all of your personal and work related to-dos. If you have two separate locations, you have to be religious in keeping them both up to do date; and quite honestly, with the ability to access and post so easily with electronic media, there’s really no reason to One person highlighted in different colors and her assistant had access to the calendar. My recommendation is whatever you use be consistent. Calendar your important but not urgent items like exercise, project work, reading and writing. They need a time slot in your life along with everything else.
5. Priority. One participant had a business size card that had space to write three goals to focus on in the Personal, Business and Money areas of her life. She kept it in the visor of her car and changed it once a month. Some folks had checklists. There are many apps for that as well: Trello, Wunderlist and Do It (tomorrow) are just a few examples. Keeping goals at the top of one’s mind is critical to keep focus and accomplish what you want to.
6. Communication. This came up repeatedly. We all need to be more proactive about setting expectations when we delegate or are being delegated to. If my project depends on other folks getting information to me…I need to let them know before I get behind the 8 ball and need help digging out. If someone is dependent on me for a critical report so that the presentation goes off as planned, I need to request the deadline up front. Knowing what someone else’s priority and focus are can help you understand your own. Be more proactive in your communication.
7. Good girl. We need to let go of the “good girl” or “wonder woman” syndrome (yes, I know you are surprised but 90% of the class were women). We don’t have to get everything done. We never will get “it all done”. Let go of the guilt, the worry and negative self talk and delegate. It’s only stressing you out. LET.IT.GO.
Sometimes it’s just nice to get into a room with some other overwhelmed folks in order to find out that we are all going through similar experiences and that we can learn from each other’s stumbles and limiting beliefs. It’s invigorating when everyone, including me, takes a piece of new insight and utilizes the new knowledge.