There is a tempo of business. Back-to-back meetings, impending deadlines, sudden twists and turns. All part of the mix. All part of a cadence that can sometimes feel a bit awkward – a bit out of sync with your natural pace. Not unlike trying to run upon a stretch of railroad ties spaced 7/8ths of a stride apart.
Having to keep up can feel relentless, at times, for sure. Like a never-ending challenge. Sometimes even overwhelming. And just when you think you’re making headway – good headway – some unforeseen new priority changes everything. A new crisis du jour…every jour! You can count on it.
Too Much? Or Not Enough?
The thing, though, is this: Work can be wonderfully exhilarating, too! Each day can usher in something incredibly new and different. Each conversation has the potential of providing some exciting (and enticing) new insight, disclosure, or piece of information.
It happens. It’s thrilling. It really can be.
For some, it’s unexpected face time with the boss’ boss (or a ‘mentoring moment’ with your own boss). For others, it’s more about the chase. For others still, it’s the glad-handing and hero-recognition that comes from successfully ‘firefighting’ that can’t be beat.
There’s an adrenaline rush to it. Perhaps you know it. (I suspect you do.) And when it happens, it’s more energizing and uplifting than a caramel macchiato, double espresso, Red Bull, or whatever your super-charged caffeinated liquid of choice happens to be.
Going faster. Working harder. Being busier, more vibrant. Feeling essential. It can really stay with a person, can’t it?!
❝Please, sir, I want some more.❞
Behind the More
But this is not a plea for better work/life balance. There’s no such thing, really. (If you disagree, why then does the concept insist on giving ‘work’ top billing. Is it a coincidence? I think not.)
Nor is it an attempt to dissuade you from work hard/play hard, either – even if that has a habit of all-too-easily morphing into work hard/feel exhausted as we get older.
No, it’s really about what you might be losing sight of when you focus too intently on the here-and-now: that is, your longer-term goals and objectives.
Maybe it’s a form of ‘productive procrastination’. Maybe it’s just a variation of Covey’s ‘urgent versus important’. But I’m becoming increasingly convinced that if we let the pace of business hijack our attention, we’ll likely never get to what needs to be done until, at best, the last possible moment – which doesn’t leave much room for any real strategy, creativity, or uniqueness, in what we do.
A Reconcilable Conundrum
Fortunately, all is not lost. And the path is surprisingly simple. All you need to do is some front-end planning. With that in place, you’ll be far more ready (and able) to see the opportunities to move things forward as you’re attending to more pressing matters. You’ll be far more ready (and able) to act upon those opportunities in increasingly decisive and meaningful ways, notwithstanding what else is going on.
So take 15 minutes and on a clean sheet of paper, write out your key work goals for the year. (Hint: Your boss’ year-end review of you is a good place to find them.)
Then, bullet-point the key steps needed to actually make them happen. Don’t go crazy, three, four, or five steps are all you need for each. Then calendar when you want to start and finish them, with all the necessary reminders you think you’ll need. (Don’t leave it to memory – or chance.)
If you want to really WOW! yourself (and others) take a few more moments and consider what would be needed to increase the impact of your bullet-points tenfold. It’s often helpful to do so in terms of people, processes, and unintended consequences. Some questions to help you get started:
- People – Who do you need to be on board? To what extent? How best to obtain (and align) their commitments sooner rather than later (or not at all)? Who will advocate on your behalf in your absence?
- Processes – What workflows need to be changed, added, or eliminated (or disregarded or better respected) to facilitate your efforts? What do you realize is essential that others may not, and vice versa? What conversations around that need to be had with whom about all that?
- Unintended Consequences – How might things go wrong, notwithstanding your best efforts? How might you alter your plans so they don’t go off the rails in those ways? How can you best identify (and mitigate) any other risks that you and your intentions and actions might face?
Embracing – and Planning for – More
Think of it this way: To get the recognition and reward you, no doubt, feel you need, you must make things happen that would not otherwise happen by themselves. So unless you focus on more than just the here and now, they will not happen.
At year-end, you may be able to explain away your culpability for such non-events. But wouldn’t you rather know you played a central role in accomplishing some truly game-changing results?
In other words, the train’s leaving; are you on it?