Voltaire said it first, and while many people have said it in various ways, it all means the same thing. When we try to be good at too many things, we end up being great at none of them.
Consider this scenario.
Mary is the manager of a medium-sized division in her company. She is responsible for the work that her division does for the company, as well as managing the 25 associates that work in the division. She reports to a company Vice President, and is occasionally asked to make reports to the entire group of Vice Presidents. Mary has job responsibilities that extend beyond managing the people in her division. Yet she spends much of her time putting out fires with and for them. They like and trust her, and it makes her feel important to help them with their work issues.
Mary finds herself constantly feeling like she is trying to catch up at work. She often works very long hours, staying way past everyone else, and lives with her Blackberry glued to her hand. She feels guilty for not spending more time with her family. She often misses evening or weekend family commitments to take care of something at work. Mary is totally stressed out and over extended. She feels like she can’t get a handle on the never-ending ‘fires’, and wants to quit.
Mary’s scenario may not be your own. However, I would assert that too often, many of us are guilty of getting caught up in other people’s expectations or demands on our time without taking the time to consider our effectiveness.
Are you trying to be good at too many things and sacrificing being great at just a few? Are you losing sight of the bigger picture, scrambling around, and feeling trapped on a hamster wheel?
To engage in ongoing development as a leader means evaluating these questions every so often. And to really evaluate them, you need to get specific.
Everyone, regardless of your position at work, can benefit from engaging in intentional reflection. Here are some steps to get you started:
- Get it on the calendar: Decide how often you want to reap the benefits of the process and then write it into your calendar. Treat it with the same importance that you treat any other meeting. We recommend allocating two hours to this process, and scheduling it once a week, once every two weeks, or at the very least, once a month.
- Problem Solving Time Goes First: Spend the first hour of your reflection time on problem solving. The focus of this type of reflection is short-term and tactical. We are inundated with problems at work every day. To address them effectively, we need to reflect on them. Make a list of problems. Pick the priorities and work them out. Do as many as you realistically can.
- Think Strategically and Seek Wisdom: The second hour of your time should be spent on this longer-term type of reflection. It is more proactive and requires discipline and accountability. There will always be dozens of immediate demands! But without this type of reflection, you will find it very difficult to control your time and your situation.
- Take Action!: Using what you’ve done in the two hours of reflection, make a plan of concrete steps that you can follow to get you there. Take it to the next level and find someone with whom you can share your plan of action who will hold you accountable for actually doing it.
Many of us are so busy putting out fires and responding to the immediate and never-ending daily demands of our lives that we do not carve out time to gain control. Often people refer to it as ‘taking time for themselves’. It falls again and again to the bottom of the priority list.
We challenge you to try carving out this block of time even once, and see what kind of benefits you can reap. And if you want a partner in this process, and more detailed guidance on how to engage in this discipline, we’re just a phone call away.