Picking my battles
Every day I am tempted to work more on what’s urgent than what’s important. Somedays I do better at working on important tasks, but it’s a constant wrestling match. Important tasks help to achieve my overall goals. Urgent tasks usually involve fixing something that is broken for someone else. Urgent tasks may not always be beneficial to everyone and tend to be subject to interpretation of the one asking for something to be completed. In other words, if I ask someone how urgent something really is, I will usually receive varying answers.
For me, it all starts with a service desk ticket, a system-outage, equipment failure, unexpected email, etc. Something happens that seems to always turn my time management routine upside down. Even if I’m working on important tasks related to larger goals, there are interruptions for urgent things by way of phone, in-person office visit, text, email, etc.
7am quiet time
At one time, the 7am hour was my stress-free plan-the-day time. It was quiet and I could plan the day or work on important tasks. Nice.
But I’ve noticed lately, the battle-of-urgent is starting more often during the 7am hour. More colleagues and customers are working flex-hours and home office hours these days. That means more workers are online at 7am trying to use computing equipment or starting to go through their daily tasks and reaching out for help.
I realize my purpose at work is to help others and to connect them to solutions. So while I may have lost my 7am hour as a planning time, I need to adjust and think smarter about how to approach the battle of urgent versus important.
I also realized the reverse is true; my important tasks could be someone else’s urgent tasks. If our goals are not aligned then it’s easy to create this type of mismatch.
A great approach to time management is defining leader standard work (LSW). When I documented my leader standard work, I defined the important activities I perform daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, etc. If I plan my day around leader standard work activities I should see the following benefits:
- Working on what’s important – LSW defines activities that are important to the execution and management of my team and work.
- Addressing what’s urgent through assignment and delegation. Whenever possible, I should delegate urgent work. My LSW is structured in such a way as to review work queues for the entire team and make assignment shifts or inquiries as necessary.
- Leading by teaching – LSW should be setup to make me more visible to my team and customers not less visible because I’m hidden behind a computer screen. LSW creates opportunities for engagement with other team members and customers.
- Reflecting and 5S – I fail most often on this task because I work until I reach that stopping point at the end of the day. If I can take 10 minutes at the end of the day to reflect and jot down any important tasks for tomorrow then it should help towards a great start against battling urgent.
Battling urgent never ends and some days I do better than others. But I try to prepare for the battle everyday by defining what’s important first and then executing that plan.
Onward and upward.
Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/21aTYi5 – Marco Verch via Creative Commons.