Wednesday 8 April 2015

Life's too short to be complicated

This is an updated article on a subject I have posted about many times before, that of leaders being and/or feeling time poor.

In her Huffpost Daily Brief of 3rd May 2013 Arianna Huffington said:

Are you busy right now? Are you already behind on what you wanted to accomplish today? Or this week? Or this year? Are you hoping this will be a short post so you can get back to the million things on your to-do list that are breathing down your neck? Okay, I'll get on with it: Our culture is obsessed with time. This is our real deficit crisis, and one that, unlike the more commonly discussed deficit, is actually getting worse. In fact, researchers have given this crisis a name: "time famine". 

Your life doesn't need to be this way.

Just one intention and two actions are needed to say goodbye to being time poor and overcoming the dis-ease of "time famine."

Everything begins with intention.  Stop trying to do everything.  Not everything really matters.  Most of what we choose to do each day doesn’t really matter.

What choices are you making?

Get over everything you can’t do anything about.  Instead focus on what you can do something about.

What are you trying to achieve that you know in your heart you can’t change or influence?

The only difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people have successful habits.
Earl Nightingale

The time rich people I know are clear on the critical actions they must take and achievements they must fulfill regardless of whatever else happens.  Their actions and achievements have become habits.  One habit that really matters when it comes to being time rich, is following rituals.

Rituals - the actions we must take regardless of whatever else happens.

Following rituals means deliverables, the outcomes we must achieve regardless of whatever else happens, are a consequence not a focus.

Two actions: get past the barrier of busyness and start following rituals.

Getting past the barrier of busyness

I am often reminded of the barrier of busyness. I meet a lot of people bound up by busyness.  

Here are some of the tell tale signs

*Decision-making processes not being followed.
*Problems are solved and then they reoccur over and over again. This has a lot to do with problem-solving being mostly about reinstating the status quo rather than changing what's normal (innovation).
*Decisions being continually revisited.
*Documentation is produced in lieu of action.
*Meetings occur with key players absent.
*Meetings have no agendas.
*Meetings are poorly conducted.
*Whiteboards full.
*Diaries full.
*Inboxes full.
*There's a pre-occupation with mobile phones and other devices. If you can't have mobile free days without withdrawal symptoms you're in the grip of "time famine".
*Negative body language of staff.
*Management (PPPPS's - policies, procedures, practices, processes and system) mean it isn't simple for people to bring their best to their work every day.
*Leaders love the sound of their own voice and the corresponding lack of awareness means their oblivious to the chaos and complication they're causing.
*Massive confusion exists between what is communication and what is information sharing

I could go on and on.

Here are a 12 actions to take to ensure you are not bound by busyness

1) Educate yourself and others that communication requires both sending and receiving and results in agreement even if it is agreeing to disagree. Information sharing on the other hand is one way.
2) Refuse to attend meetings where there is no agenda available well in advance. Don't discuss anything not on the agenda.
3) Review your effectiveness weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly including engaging in candid feedforward and feedback with others.
4) Set aside time each week to do nothing. I sit under a tree somewhere for 4 hours per week. It is amazing how refreshed we can feel just by doing nothing.
5) Get your leadership and management harmony right for you. For some of us it is 80% leadership and 20% management, for others the other way round, and many other combinations. 

Remember leadership is about people and effectiveness. Management is about PPPPS's and efficiency. Leadership is art, management practice. The two must be in harmony for us to be the best we can be.

6) Do not tolerate negativity in any shape or form.
7) Block out a lot of space in your diary where nothing is planned. You will be astounded at how much more effective you become when your diary is no longer full.
8) Work on things that are important and urgent. Forget the rest.
9) Have a won't do list and stick to it no matter what.
10) Celebrate process more than outcome.
11) Spend time with positive children as often as possible. They have an amazing sense of self, initiative, curiosity, creativity and wonder. Be childlike and never childish.
12) Focus on standards or rituals not goals or results.

In 2013 on the recommendation of my colleague Maria Carlton, who is a best selling author and publisher, I purchased a book by Derek Mills The 10 Second Philosophy®.  Derek is known as The Standards Guy®

Derek’s book is about having standards instead of goals.  It is a very refreshing read and I have added his book to my recommended reading list.

For many years my focus has been about following rituals, what Derek calls standards.  I know that if I follow the right processes for me then the outcomes take care of themselves.

Is your focus on outcomes or processes, goals or standards, results or rituals?

Some people live in the past, stuck usually with intentions, feelings and a mindset about what has happened.  We can’t change the past.  We can learn from it. We can also view what has happened with different feelings and new eyes.  We can see failure as a learning opportunity for example rather than as a negative.

Some people live in the future, stuck usually with intentions, feelings and a mindset about what might happen.  We can’t guarantee the future.  We can vision what is possible and take one quantum leap at a time to move from where we are to where we want to be.

The most successful and happy people who I know live in the present.  We can change the present. We can control what happens within the sphere of what is in our control, our intentions, feelings, thoughts, and actions.  We can't control what happens a lot of the time. We can control how we respond to what happens. Sure it is important to have direction, goals, targets, to begin with the end in mind.  The trick is to focus on the now.  This is what processes, standards or rituals can do for us.

The author of another great book, The Power of No, Eckhart Tolle provides the following wise advice: Stress is caused by being 'here' but wanting to be 'there'.

Be crystal clear about where you want to go and who you want to become, then focus on where you are now and on being the best you can be right now.

My rituals one pager may help you.  Please download it and then create your own or something similar.  

In his book Derek Mills provides a template for setting standards in personal health and fitness, environmental, relationships, family, emotions, career, and time. Get his book and check it out.  

Whatever tool you use the point is this: Have something that helps you to maintain your focus in the now.

The Chinese philosopher Laozi is quoted as saying - "The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet," often translated “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Focus on the single step you are taking right now.

I have very clear goals in all aspects of my personal and business life written down.  The key is not my goals.  The key is my execution plan to achieve them and sticking to the plan. Rituals/standards/processes help immensely. 

What execution plan are you following?


Some people live in the past.  Their focus is on what happened. 

Some people are future focused. Their focus is on what might happen. 

The most successful and happy people are crystal clear on where they’re going and their focus is on what will happen in the present.

Keeping standards or following processes or rituals are what the most successful and happy people do.

What modifications/changes will you make to be more focused on the present?

If you feel like your life is too complicated, it is. Let go of whatever it is in your life that causes you to feel you're in the grip of "time famine." Then invest more wisely in the 168 hours you have this week. Life's too short to be complicated.

Be remarkable.

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