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How You Get Things Done

By AICC Staff

May 24, 2021

width=650Is your life simpler than it was a year ago? As I write this column, we have completed one lap around the sun since the pandemic was declared. It is helpful to ask oneself this question even in mundane years. Is my life simpler than it was a year ago? Simpler, as in less cluttered, more focused, less complicated. Put another way, are you focusing your energy and time on the things that matter most to you?

We normally use culture to describe the way in which a society, an organization, or even a family gets things done. This includes both the written and tribal knowledge. When I use the term to discuss an individual’s culture, I am talking about how that person gets things done, knowing that it is affected by conscious choices and unquestioned perceptions and methods based on personal experience. So, if I aspire to a simpler life, I will start with these disciplines:

  • Make more conscious choices.
  • Examine those choices I make automatically.
  • Prioritize according to what is most important to me.
  • Reduce or eliminate the expense of time and energy on everything else.

Let’s use an exemplary 30-something professional to illustrate the steps of this exercise. Her name is Danielle Tyger.

Make More Conscious Choices

Danielle is the rare millennial who manages her time based on yes rather than no. She has taken the time to think about what is most important to her, the activities and expenses of time and bandwidth that merit her attention. These are the things she desires to say yes to. She finds it easier now to say no to the priorities of others, because she knows what she values most. She is ambitious in goals for both career advancement and the health of relationships with her spouse and their child. She feels that she has lost any semblance of work-life balance this past year. She is currently working to better articulate her goals and her values with the hope of improving her decision-making and reducing her yeses.

Examine Automatic Choices

Next, Danielle looks more closely at the choices she makes without much forethought. These include some decisions made under stress or fatigue when we tend to switch to autopilot mode. Some of them are impulsive reactions she calls “oh what the heck” choices that rarely end well. Still others seemed rational until she examined them and saw that they were based on family norms and practices that she had not questioned.

Prioritize Based on What Is Important to You

Danielle pushed back on this idea, because she saw it as a selfish way to look at her life. However, when asked what is most important to her, she listed her closest relationships and using her talents and experience to have a positive impact in her career, family, and community. What is most important to Danielle is not at all self-serving, but the priorities of others would have spent her time and energy, were she to leave them in charge. Yes, I am saying that the default setting is that someone else will manage your time.

Reduce or Eliminate the Expense of Time and Energy on Everything Else

Having gained a better understanding of her decision-making grid and having prioritized accordingly, Danielle began a measured approach to eliminating the distractions and activities that are not high priorities. Some of these were worthy causes, but she said no to them because she is serving a higher-priority yes.

She is being more careful about her calendar but has also changed the way she works and plays. For example, Danielle stopped going to two of her many weekly meetings and uses the time to solve recurring problems. She and her husband recently decided that their child did not really need to be involved in hockey, ballet, and math olympics concurrently. They also made the tough decision to sell their boat because the enjoyment-to-maintenance ratio no longer worked for them.

Like Danielle, most of us live cluttered lives, with our priorities in an indiscriminate mix with those of others. Living an uncluttered life is not easy. It takes time and discipline to intentionally live with your values as a guide to the expense of time and resources. Now Danielle has a vision for who she is and what she intends. Michelangelo has been credited with saying that sculpting the David was easy—he envisioned the king and then chiseled away everything that was not David. It is not easy, but Danielle is chipping away the things that distract and steal her time and attention from what matters most. It will be her masterwork.

width=88Scott Ellis, Ed.D., delivers training, coaching, and resources that develop the ability to eliminate obstacles and sustain more effective and profitable results. He recently published Dammit, Learning Judgment Through Experience. His books and process improvement resources are available at AICC members enjoy a 20% discount code: AICC21.