Trade Urgency for Intentionality

Society moves at a lightning pace.  Busy is the “in-thing”, and it is going to steal your awesomeness.  Busy-ness is unfocused productivity.  Doing a lot of the wrong things doesn’t make you effective or productive.  The goal, after all, is to have the power to achieve your awesomeness whatever it may be (insert stop killing your dream), and still be happy.  Stephen Covey illustrated the importantance classifying tasks in a simple manner and knowing how to protect your time from wasteful, non productive things.  His quadrants:

English: Mount Rainier

English: Mount Rainier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Urgent/Imporant: crying baby, kitchen fire, etc.

2. Not Urgent/Imporant: exercise, planning, etc. (this is where your awesomeness lives)

3. Urgent/Not Important: interruptions, calls

4. Not Urgent/Not Important: Busy work, time wasters.
Living intentionally isn’t about blocking out interruptions or never wasting time.  Words with friends, crossword puzzles, and farmville are not wasting  time if you are choosing do these things rather than doing them at the expense of things that matter to your awesome.  There is no magic bullet here.  Every once in a while, you have to get back to basics, and evaluate your path.  Pay attention to these 3 simple things to assess your ability to focus and play in the urgent zone.

1. Define your Awesome:  What are you trying to accomplish.  Thinking with “the end in mind”, what is “the end”?.  Without this, you are wandering around aimlessly and everything will seem urgent.

2.  Awareness of where your time and focus is being spent:  Once you have defined your goals, you have a guiding light toward where the majority of your time and focus should be spent. You must be willing and able to evaluate your time and focus.  If this seems foreign to you, seek some coaching from a personal coach.  The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, The Effective Executive, and Getting Things Done, are great places to start.  They provide classic tools for managing your actions.  How much of your bucket is full of quadrant 2 activities? These are the things that will get you to your awesome.

3.  Making adjustments:  The thing about YOU becomming awesome is that you are blazing your own trail.  Sometimes a seemingly perfect path ends at a cliff and you must turn around and find another way forward.  You may feel trapped on your current path.  Your bucket may be filled with Job pressure, kids’ activities, traffic, ailing relatives, etc. Recognizing these things is only the start.  A small percentage of people get to this point, an even smaller percentage do something about it.  Doing something about it may be as simple as car pooling to soccer practice with anoother parent.  This will open some time for you to work on quadrant two activities.
 Relentless forward movement, however small, toward a defined goal, has a remarkable way of leading to success and accomplishment.
Urgency and focus grow and decline inversely.  Staying ahead of deadlines and intentionally protecting your focus time will keep more of the important things in quadrant 2.  You will get more done at a higher level.  Perfection is not the goal.  You define the goal, now do it!

Unintended Consequences: Kitchen Trash and Jenga

imageOne of my favorite games is Jenga. You know the game? You stack blocks and carefully remove them without knocking down the growingly cumbersome and wobbly tower until, alas, the blocks are scattered and a winner is crowned. Jenga is fun with blocks, not with piles of kitchen trash. I hate taking out the trash. Someone has always stacked juice boxes, cans, and bottles in a well enginered stack that I simply cannot maneuver. This is especially true on rainy days and in the middle of the night when the prospect of walking outside to dump the smelly remainants of last nights’ pasta bake and fish filet is about as pleasant as eating it. I am usually the unsuspecting victim who chose to volunteer to take the bathroom trash downstairs, or empty the vacum cleaner. In my unwavering kindess to my family, I am often known to pick up those mystery pieces of paper that always finds their way to my kitchen floor. Many times, this ritual is done after a long battle with the dishwasher, homework, and tupperware containers with lids missing in action since the Bush administration. The sinks are wiped shiny clean, the hum of the dishwasher sings in the background and the lights are extinguished for another evening of clean, relaxful slumber. Oh, so I think! Next time, I’ll pretend I don’t see the extra trash.
How many times have you stopped to do something so simple and found yourself facing a monster? Unintended consequences haunt our good itentions. In this case, my intention to clean a “little” has resulted in me cleaning “a lot”. This isn’t simply relegated to the terrible and almost nonsensical analogy of trash can theory. People have debated unintended consequences for years. Gun control is a hot topic. “Gun free zones are safe because there’s no guns allowed.” Sounds simple. Except for the crazy guy who could care less about an ordinance outlawing guns in the local shopping mall. Laws that force small businesses to incur certain costs beyond 50 employees tend to hover around an employee base of 49; not helping the unemployment situation. In many of these cases, the intention was well meaning. Making malls safer and asking employers to provide health insurance are noble goals.
Success is typically not measured by intention, rather than by result. Even more challenging, the result may be two-fold. The expected positive outcome (ie, more people with jobs who have health care) and the unintented consequence (less people with jobs, thus less people overall with healthcare). We must live in reality to achieve real and sustainable success in what we do. You are working hard to build your dream. You work extra hours for that promotion. Missing a few soccer practices, maybe a wedding or a ballet recital? In the end, you may get that promotion. What has it cost you? Time with your kids? Divorce?
Big issues like gun control and trash can theory teach us to think through the course of our actions. You will be measured on the totality of your results. No one will care what your intentions were if there is trash all over the kitchen. What have you done that resulted in a ridiculous unintended consequence?

Rocco De Leo

No Written Life Goals? 5 Steps for the 30 something to Get Started NOW!

Dream Big White Tee

Dream Big White Tee (Photo credit: Five Wun O Clothing)

Listen to any life hack, guru, or personal development specialist and they all tell you the same thing about achieving your goals: “that which gets written down, gets completed”.  It sounds simple enough.  Write down your goals, keep time to periodically review them, and update steps along the way. Well, I’m turning 37 in 3 weeks and don’t have goals written down anywhere.  Am I doomed to failure? Absolutely not!  However, I am not advocating continuing this behavior.  Life sometimes catches up to us at the most opportune times.  The little voice in your head starts whispering when it knows you’re ready to hear.  Now that I’m considering being more tangible with my goals in life, where do I start? I think the answer starts first and foremost with my last post.  Just get off the couch and do it.  Don’t worry about inspiration, or a better time, just do something. Now is as good a time to start as any.  With that being said, there are a few things to consider.

First, make some time in your calendar to work on this.  For me, if it’s not on my Iphone, it’s not going to happen.  The other thing about this is to schedule a few times to work on it.  Give your creative mind time to digest what it is doing.  Don’t force yourself to plan out your entire life in a 1 hour appointment.

Second, find your medium to capture your goal.  Are you going to write it down or put on a computer.  If you are writing it down, put it some place special and some place nice.  This is your life, make it an enjoyable experience.  Maybe a nice journal?  This is not crucial, you can actually write it on a napkin if you’d like.  I just know personally, I get more excited about the “tools” I use at times and can help my motivation.

Third, have long term, medium term, and short term goals.  This is another one of those “no brainers” that you still fail to do.  Why do you fail?  Because you are AFRAID!  You don’t want to be held accountable.  You intend on writing this down and walking away from it.  Stop reading now if that’s your intention.

Fourth, include action items that are time bound as part of your goals.  David Allen, in his bestseller “Getting things Done” does an amazing job detailing “action” items.  Start from step one.  If your 3 year goals is to to finish your BA, your first step might be to get your transcripts from your previous school.  Think in those realistic and step-wise methods.  This is a road map to getting where you want to go.  Maps have the starting point and the end point and every point in between.

Fifth, this is so very important.  You must not limit your dreams.  Your success depends on your ability to dream.  Dream BIG! The world will stomp on your dreams, why should you? Do you want to be a senator?  Write a novel? Change careers?  Then by all means write it down.  Work backwards on what it takes achieve your goal.

Whether you achieve all your goals is not exactly the point.  You will live a much more focused life.  A life filled with purpose, ambition, and fulfillment toward a goal is much more rewarding.  Take some time for yourself to reflect on what you really want to do.  Don’t limit yourself to money or geography.  Find what will make you happy.  If you really want it, you will make it happen.