In this culture of hyper-connectivity and people-pleasing, it’s easy to find ourselves with more commitments than we are able to fulfill. It’s easy to discover that our task lists are growing more quickly than our abilities to complete or even delegate tasks. That is an Action Deficit.

action-too much to do

photo credit: Walt Stoneburner on Flickr

How to handle an Action Deficit

An action deficit, like a cash flow deficit, can be handled multiple ways. We can:

  1. Ignore the problem and hope it goes away (not smart)
  2. Allow the loudest priorities to control our actions
  3. Develop and carry out a plan that will lead to success

Obviously, the first plan – ignoring things – is simply unwise. But so often we actually do allow the priorities of others and their ability to be the loudest control what gets our attention. I know what both of these are like because I constantly fight the temptation to approach my own overwhelm in those ways.

There is a better way

Begin with the end in mind
Stephen Covey

The better way, though, is to be crystal clear on what is most important. In every context. Be crystal clear on what is most important in your family. Be crystal clear on what is most important in your business or to the company you work for. Be crystal clear on what is most important in your department. And your church. And in your relationships. And in your health.

OK, I get it.

Then, develop a plan to reorganize your activities put your best time towards the things that are the most important. I can’t tell you exactly what that will look like because I don’t know your specific situation. But I can tell you that knowing what is most important will help.

Finally, put the plan into action. Reorganize your schedule (I get up at 5AM most days to pray, read the Bible, and write in a journal – and I’m not a morning person). Have some frank discussions if necessary. And schedule a weekly check-in with yourself or an accountability partner to keep yourself on track.

That sounds easy

Well, yes, it does sound easy. But it’s not easy, it’s simple and straightforward but not easy. Or at least it wasn’t easy for me, and it’s still a struggle from time to time. I come back to these principles weekly, sometimes daily and wrestle them back into place. I still struggle.

Take the first step first

So, since it’s not easy, just take the first step. Then take the second.

Do you know where you are in this? Take a deep assessment of where you are and how you’re spending your time (track your time if you need to) and then compare that with what’s most important to you, your boss and customers, your family, and so on. If you like what you see, keep going. If not, take the next steps.

  • Get clear on your priorities
  • Create a plan to spend your best time on those priorities
  • Arrange your schedule and commitments
  • Check in often

The question

Can you share the story of a time when you successfully changed how you were spending your time to do what was the most important? If so, what did you do and how did you do it?

Photo credit: Walt Stoneburner

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