You’ll never have the time or the energy to do everything you need to do (If by chance this isn’t true for you, you aren’t working hard enough). The truth is that you have limited bandwidth. As tireless as you may be, there is only so much you can get done in a day.
There is limited time, and you have limited energy. Because this is true, it’s important that you have a plan to employ your limited bandwidth getting the right outcomes.
It’s too easy to fall into that reactive mode where you sit waiting for the world to act on you. And it doesn’t take long for the world to show up and drop something in your lap. Someone needs a meeting. Client has a problem. An RFP shows up and gives you something to read and think about. It’s all work; but it isn’t the right work, is it?
To effectively use your time and energy, you have to be proactive. You have to take control of the decision as to what work you give yourself over to. You do this by ranking the outcomes you need to achieve each week. Then you start each day by ranking the most important outcomes you need to achieve that day.
List them out. What’s the most important outcome you need to achieve? What’s the second most important? Keep going. List them out. I’ll wait right here.
Start Early on What’s Most Important
Great! You’re back with your list in hand.
The most effective way to ensure that you achieve the outcomes you need each day is to front load your day with what’s most important. You start by working on your most important outcome first. Then you can move on to your second most important outcome. And down the list you go.
One of the reasons starting with the most important outcome is so difficult for many of us is that it often requires our doing the most difficult work. But that’s why it’s best to do it early in the morning; that’s when you have the bandwidth. Once you’re wiped out for the day, the most important—and difficult—tasks aren’t too appealing.
Do you need to call that client with the systemic and persistent problem your team is having trouble getting their arms around? Or is your pipeline weak? Do you really need to prospect? These tasks will get you the outcomes you need, but the tough clients conversations may go wrong, and who wants to prospect if there’s easier work available?
The reasons we avoid this work is because of fear. We avoid things that seem to us to be unpleasant (or that even have the potential of being unpleasant). Doing the work that produces the important outcomes we need may not be as pleasant as other work. That’s why it’s critical that you do this work when you have the maximum bandwidth.
By ranking your most important outcomes and completing the most important first, you ensure that you produce the results that you need to. Later, if the world starts making demands of you and wipes out your bandwidth, you still leave work with a sense of accomplishment, having knocked off the two or three most important outcomes early in the day.
When do you have the most bandwidth available for your most important work?
How do you ensure your energy is spent on your most important work?
What work is more difficult to achieve later in the day? How can you move it up?
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