Are you working on your highest priority activities right now, or are you being pulled away by noisy urgencies that always seem to be there? I know you are busy; we are all busy. The question to ask is, “Busy doing what?”
It was Stephen Covey who warned us, “The noise of the urgent creates the illusion of importance.” He used what is commonly known as the “Eisenhower Matrix” to show how you consider everything you could be doing on the 2×2 matrix of urgent versus important. Therefore, leaders need to be clear on their priorities, both for themselves and their teams. If you or your team are focused solely on the urgent, at the expense of the important, it will be tough for you to meet or exceed your goals.
It was also Dr. Covey who introduced us to the concept of Big Rocks First. Big Rocks are your most important priorities. Small rocks in Dr. Covey’s metaphor are lesser priorities. And sand represents the hundreds of small things we do every day that eat away at our calendars. His point is that if you fill your time with small, non-priorities, you won’t have the time needed to focus on your most important tasks.
When you combine these two lessons, “Big Rocks” and “Urgent and Important,” you have the tools you need to ensure you are investing your time in your most important tasks.
5 Steps to Finding Your Big Rocks
If you struggle with knowing or doing the most important things, try this:
- Reaffirm what precisely it is you are trying to accomplish; call this your GOAL.
- Break the GOAL into MILESTONES (think of these as gates you must walk through to get to the final destination).
- Determine what you would need to do TODAY to get to the next MILESTONE.
- Schedule time (early in the day) to work on these most important tasks that lead toward the MILESTONE.
- Say NO to anything that gets in the way of meeting today’s execution challenge.
Dr. Jason Self, in his book, Organize Tomorrow Today, offers this advice: “Every day, spend three to five minutes listing your ‘3 Most Important’ tasks for tomorrow and your ‘1 Must-Do’ priority. Prioritize and then go into attack mode.” This advice is a great way to set yourself up for success and ensure you are working on the right things at the right time.
When urgencies arise, and they will, you can weigh them against your plan and decide if it is an actual urgent and important task that must be accomplished immediately, or simply an urgent but not important task trying to sound more critical than it really is.
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.