Leadership focus: Embrace one priority
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
The amount of information available at our fingertips is amazing. At any given moment, we can accomplish more, quicker. We can connect with more people, easily. And we can capture data, ideas and potential issues, simply.
In many ways, this accessibility has had positive effects on our productivity. However, there are well-documented, notable downsides like increased stress, negative impacts on sleep and strains on interpersonal interactions.
In response, creative leaders are looking at nontraditional ways to stay ahead. Actions that used to indicate a strong work ethic — not sleeping, working through lunch, going to the office when sick — are falling out of favor. Instead, as noted previously: sleep, balance and proactively managing health are the hallmarks of good leaders.
Along those lines, those same pioneering leaders are now rethinking priorities. Here is the how and why of embracing one priority.
The luxury of one
To most of us, the idea of waking up, going to work and having one thing to do sounds completely ridiculous.
Even when we curate our massive project lists into beautiful, tiny, two-line to-do lists, it takes time, lots of effort and is incredibly difficult to maintain. Add an office full of colleagues, staff and a few bosses who require your attention, input and attendance, and it is almost impossible to imagine sticking to a short to-do list — let alone only doing one thing.
Yet, just like getting a good night of sleep can lead to increased creativity and productivity, reducing the number of things that take our focus can increase our ability to focus.
Consider multitasking. Neuroscientists, psychologists and anyone sitting next to someone trying to read email in a meeting can tell you that trying to do two things at once does not work. Switching between tasks negatively affects our IQ and efficiency. Similarly, trying to have multiple priorities pulls our brain and energy in too many directions.
Instead, start by reviewing goals and long-term plans and boil them down to a short list of true priorities.
An army of one
If this seems tough, remember that priority literally means the most important thing. It should be technically impossible to have multiple, most important things. Further, the other items on our list do not just go away, they queue up until it is their turn to be the most important.
This linear approach may seem impossible. However, for leaders, it should be an imperative.
Consider mission and vision statements and strategic plans: they are most successful when they are clear, simple and can be easily embraced and implemented across all departments at all levels. Thus, we need to consider our list of priorities — those high-level goals that truly drive and impact all our actions — and determine which one is the most important to accomplish.
With that priority at center stage, it is time to reconfigure project plans and to-do lists to reflect that priority. To reduce the stress or anxiety associated with tabling the rest of the list, set time in your schedule to regularly to reassess.
Getting a good night of sleep, eating lunch away from the desk or calling out sick may have seemed difficult at first. However, getting even a small taste of the benefits of increased energy and creativity, it becomes easier and easier to push through the little challenges that stand in the way.
Eliminating multiple priorities may seem tough at first, but the benefits of improved focus and increased accomplishments will make it worth the effort.
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