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Sunday, 26 March 2017

Wondering Which Way To Go? You Need To Know Your True North!

Stephen Covey in his benchmark book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says that we should always put first things first.  On the face of it that is almost a truism but the question is, how often do we actually achieve that desirable outcome?

I well recall visiting a new member of my Vistage CEO peer group for his first one-to-one session and in the course of the conversation I asked him how he organised his day.  For example, did he have a to-do list?

He did, he said, and went to his trusty laptop to show me.  There was a total of 72 items on the list ranging from “Contact the bank to discuss the overdraft as requested” to “Clean the car”.

I pressed him to tell me how many of these items he thought that he would actually complete. He said that there were so many that he never seemed to achieve any of them.  In any case, he went on, day to day things get in the way and the list just got longer.

What a waste of time and effort.  It has been wisely said that rather than have a to-do list we should have a NOT to-do list and in his case the first item on that should be stop doing a to-do list.

The caveat is of course that unless the to-do list is valuable, achievable and realistic then it is worthless.

It can all be resolved by some discipline in two respects; (1) To restrict the to-do list to no more than three items and (2) To set the priorities on the list and not to divert except in exceptional circumstances.

The reason for a list of three items is a function of immediacy of memory. Three items can be recalled very easily and adding further items can start to clog the memory.  Additionally it is far easier to set priorities.

All the items on the list need to be focused to the benefit of the business and lead to a defined and specified outcome.

If these simple rules are not followed then the likelihood is that items of little or no value can intrude and get in the way of what is really significant.

Monty Roberts, the legendary horse whisperer, says that when he was following wild horses and was lost in the forest he needed to find his true north. That was his absolute priority.

The really important feature is to set your priorities.  Look at what you are planning to do, define each item in whatever terms you decide are relevant to the success of the business and then decide the  priorities on each item.   Don’t change unless something exceptional merits the change.

Moreover, keep to the priorities that you have set.  We can be so easily distracted by the day-to-day happenings in the business that very often the really significant things take a back seat not by design but by happenstance.

There is no doubt that it demands self-discipline. If these priorities are so important to the future of the business then nothing should get in the way of fulfilling them.

The natural concomitant of this discipline is the essential need to have a team to whom you can and do delegate in the safe knowledge that they can be trusted implicitly to perform.

Ask yourself these three questions:

What should I do more of?
What should I do less of?
What should I STOP doing?

Remember that if you don't know where you are going then any road will take you there.  Knowing your priorities and living them will ensure  that you will find your true north.

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