Welcome to Monday. No other day so reminds us of how difficult it can be to get it all done. And, if you’re like me, it’s probably the one day you hope to be the most effective. There are probably a zillion things on your desk all crying for your attention. People have been emailing and calling over the weekend. And, unless you cleared your desk before you left for the weekend, you probably have something left over from last week.
So, how can you get it all done? How can you answer your email and fleece lemmings and chase gnomes and design leprechaun fashion and invest in your key relationships?
It’s simply impossible to do everything. However, it is possible to be more effective and do more of the things that are the most important.
Define your destination
Knowing where you’re going and what’s most important is the foundation below doing what’s most important. And I don’t just mean knowing which task to do first. I mean what’s most important overall.
- What’s the driving force in your life?
- What makes you tick?
- Why are you here on earth?
- What are you here to do, to accomplish, or to be?
- How do you want to be remembered?
- What would you like to be your legacy?
Taking this step back can be daunting to say the least (and I wouldn’t recommend that you try to do it in the 5 minutes it takes to boot your computer in the morning). But if you’ve never taken a step back to plan your life, I’d recommend that you download Michael Hyatt‘s free Life Plan ebook right now and schedule some time to set your life’s course.
Of course, being a follower of Christ, I would also say that it’s critical that you hear from God about what He has for you – about who he has made you to be and how he would like you to live.
Getting more done in less time doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you should be doing.
Check your ship
Look at what’s going on in your life – your tasks and your actions and your leisure and your attitudes.
- Is your approach to life making you the kind of person you want to be?
- Will what you’re doing lead towards your goals?
- Is what you’re doing important at all?
- Will you be happy if your children end up being the kind of person you are right now?
- Does your approach to leisure leave you recharged or empty?
Clean off the barnacles
Just like ships covered with barnacles move slowly and maneuver poorly, we don’t function well when our lives are full of things that draw us away from what’s important. So, when you find activities and attitudes that don’t line up with your goals (and you will find some), ask yourself whether you can drop them or change them.
Be ruthless (but intentional). Clean out activities that drain you without providing value. Pursue the character and responses that will make you the kind of person you want to be. Become the kind of person who does the kinds of things that lead to where you want to be.
Note: Don’t forget that that if something is important to another person (boss, spouse, child, friend) or to one of your roles (boss, employee, spouse) dismissing it might not be the right course of action. After all, if you’re a parent but you don’t like disciplining your children, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Or just because running some particular report or analysis doesn’t seem to be leading towards your dream of changing the world doesn’t mean that it’s not important.
Sail your course
Take a look at your new task set and use a few key strategies to make the most of your new-found time:
- If it’s not important, don’t put it on your action list
- If it’s important, put it on your action list
- If it’s really important, schedule it on your calendar (I do this all the time and it really helps with three things: discipline, meeting requests, and interruptions)
So much of our time and culture is focused on the mechanics of “sailing our courses” but there’s not much value in being better at things that don’t matter. Take the time and do the hard emotional work of defining the course of your life first. Then figure out how to get the most out of your time by filling it with the things that are the most important.
Otherwise, it’s really easy to get to the end of the day (or your life) and wonder if what you did really mattered at all.
Photo credit: katerha