Over the past few months, you have given your attention over to something that, while being utterly and entirely out of your control, demanded your attention. More still, it demanded that you respond. If you are a leader, it may still be commanding your time and your attention, requiring you to make decisions without any conceptual framework or experience base from which to make them.
Reality doesn’t care about your feelings, nor does it care about your plans or goals. In this regard, reality can seem rather inflexible.
Stephen Covey once wrote that between stimulus and response, there is an opportunity to pause and consider your response. Up to this point, the stimuli provided has demanded an answer, without allowing for a chance to pause, a sure recipe for poorer decision-making. If a tiger is chasing you, you don’t sit down and ponder your choices; instead, you run like hell. When the tiger slows its pursuit, you can use the pause to reconsider your options.
What Controls Your Time
From time to time, external events will dominate your time. When there is a real emergency, one that threatens you and the people and things you care about, your time is going to go to dealing with the crisis. Once you have done all you can to dispatch the threat, you have to pivot to taking back control of your time and your focus.
Your single, finite, non-renewable resource is time, making it the most valuable commodity you will ever possess. You never know how much you have or when you will have exhausted your supply. This being true, you have to respect time, with the only strategy being not wasting it. When you decide to waste your time, spending more of it on things outside your control than you do the items inside your control, you make success unlikely.
When you have done everything you can do to lessen the harm created by external events beyond your control, you can no longer allow it to dominate what you do with your time. You must return to time management. You have to take back control of your time and your focus.
Go Back to Your Goals
You have likely given up on your goals. You can allow yourself to be discouraged by lost weeks and months and quarters. It is a mistake to abandon your goals due to external events—even if there is little chance you reach them.
There is a power that only goals provide. Goals provide a target and a deadline, creating both a sense of direction and a sense of urgency. Goals provide clarity as to what dominates your time and your focus. Your goals are internal, and pursuing them prevents you from allowing the things that are outside your control from dominating your agenda.
You may have fewer weeks available to reach your original goals, but having those weeks removed from your year doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel, giving up on what you want. Instead, you should reset, restart, and reimagine your goals during recovery.
How much progress can you make with the time you have available? How much lost ground can you recover?
Prioritize Your Priorities
There is no doubt that your priorities shifted during this crisis. Much of what you may have needed to do required you to ignore what was most important before external events made demands of you. Unless there is still something you need to do to deal with the crisis, it’s time to go back to your priorities, the things that were—and likely still are—critically important to you and your business and your client’s businesses.
When you are forced to live with a great deal of uncertainty, you will find certainty and confidence by acting on your priorities. Shifting your time and attention to the things that are important to you provides a sense of control. When you find yourself in a storm, navigating through rough and threatening waters, it’s best to steer the ship in the direction you want to go, working against the forces that are shifting you in the wrong direction.
The last thing you want to do is to allow external forces to cause you to drift. Refusing to drift requires that you establish and pursue your priorities, giving them your full attention, and minimizing the time you spend on anything else. Maybe you have fallen behind. Perhaps you are struggling to make progress.
There is nothing to be gained by falling further behind, and everything to be gained by making as much progress as you can on what is important to you now and in the future.
Who or What Commands Your Time
The most successful people you will ever meet are intentional about how they spend their time. They don’t let other people dictate their calendar, nor do they let external events dominate their time, their goals, or their priorities. They say no to almost everything as a way to ensure they maintain the space necessary to produce the results they want.
Either you control what you do with your time and focus, or someone or something else will decide for you, something that rarely ever leads to successful outcomes. A crisis can be all-consuming, primarily when the media works overtime to create fear, a sense of dread, and the belief that there is still more you need to know, working to shift your focus to what is outside your control.
You are going to have to diligently work to turn your focus and attention to what you want, avoiding focusing on what you don’t want. You have the personal power to decide what you want, what is a priority, and what you do with your time and energy. Make good choices, and do good work.
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