Are You Working the Urgent or the Important?

Urgent or Important. Which comes first?

I purposed to clear my desk today just like the plan I had last week, but when I looked at my computer discovered I had over 200 messages in my inbox. Rachelle called in and needed a blog post before the day was over and I had told her I would have it yesterday, but I got distracted.  Then Elizabeth forwarded a call from a client calling for some information on a reduction in their workforce, another called shortly thereafter with a need to hire a manager of administration. Then I happened to look at my junk e-mail and it had 167 new e-mails since yesterday.  For some odd reason I have missed some e-mails which went to the junk lately so I needed to check for those.  Oh, and as I was trying to write this Dr. Bill Young, our founder, came in to chat about some things he is working on in our leadership development portion of the business.  And of course, I am a good boss and don’t want to not have an open door policy. My cell phone rings, it’s a call from a friend in Idaho – I let it ring and will check it later this time.  Sound familiar?  So goes my day. 

This morning I was with a client for an employee reduction and had a bit of free time between the notices so I caught up on some reading in a business magazine.  Low and behold it was about this same issue and so I found my blog idea.  Clear the way to more and better results by focusing came to mind. So here goes with some tips to help that I will also take to heart.  (Elizabeth helped me by closing my door so the focus is working better already.)

What’s wrong with multitasking? 

Dr. Edward Hallowell, who wrote the book Driven to Distractions at Work, says that “it’s neurologically impossible to pay attention to two cognitively demanding things at once.” If someone believes they can multitask, what they are really doing is shifting their attention in rapid succession from one event to the next, which ultimately causes each to suffer.   Stop the multitasking or suffer the results is what I gathered from Dr. Hallowell’s thoughts.

How about screen sucking? 

This describes what I was talking about in the first paragraph.  “I just need to check my inbox or junk e-mail box right quick…” and then 45 minutes later you’re still staring at your computer.  I told my wife I was leaving in “just a few minutes” to head home but checked the e-mail and…

How about Idea hopping? 

You know what I mean. When you take a wealth of information that you have gathered, have been reading or listening to and then neglect to follow up with the information. I have a lot of great ideas floating around in my head that just drifts away to Never Never Land.  Go back and write down your thoughts on those ideas and then prioritize each one.  The screen sucking will make this hard unless you commit to an uninterrupted time each day to just think and write. 

What can be done about these distractions? 

Make it a point not to be tempted to float from one idea to the next by writing down your thoughts (keep your notebook handy) and prioritizing your thoughts. Technology needs boundaries. Turn off the computer for a period of time. Turn off your cell phone. Look for uninterrupted time to plan, think and dream.

Finally, think about your health and well-being.  Eat well, get enough sleep, exercise, spend time with loved ones, and look at life as a gift each day.  What you feed your brain will contribute to your success in any area.

So are you working the urgent or the important? Let me know how you handle distractions and stay focused on what is in front of you each day.

Jim Elliott the famous missionary martyr said:

“Be all there, wherever you are.”

Travis Jones - CEO of Career Development Partners

Written By Travis Jones

Travis has been an entrepreneur and business owner in Tulsa for over 30 years. He is a well-known community servant and is dedicated to providing world-class service for everyone we encounter at Career Development Partners.

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