By Jessica Chivers, author, Mothers Work! and director at The Talent Keeper Specialists.
As a lover of detail, order and seeing results I feel I can speak with authority on prioritising inbox clearance, invoicing and other quick wins instead of ploughing head first into a big, strategic deliverable at work. It’s something that intensified after becoming a parent when I found myself only have snatched time to accomplish things. However, I have been steadily reforming over the last few years and can offer something by way of tips to put your focus where it needs to be.
Identify the reward
The reason we prioritise the things we do, is in part due to the reward we experience when we do them. What is it you get from doing the small things, the easy things, the things you can do standing on your head? AKA, the ‘fluff.’ At the very least I’d guess it’s satisfaction without too much effort. And that anticipation of satisfaction drives us to keep doing them. Now think about the rewards you’d get by doing the bigger, more strategic things.
Break the big things down
A quick practical tip is to start by breaking down the whole of the big thing (securing promotion, planning a relocation, setting up a new venture for instance) into smaller chunks and write those chunks down. Commit ALL of the small chunks – as you believe them to be at this moment of time – to paper, not just the first few steps for your to-do list this week.
Have strategy/vision time in your diary
Diarise some time each week or month to let your mind wander broad and big. This is the mental equivalent of stepping away from your desk and gazing into the distance to let your eye muscles relax a few times each day. It’s good for us and prevents injury. Putting one foot in front of the other in the fresh air is a good way to take this strategy time – a big vista and a sunny day also help if you can swing it.
Notice what you’re doing
Try swapping ‘to-do’ listing for ‘have-done’ listing for a week to see where your time and energy goes. (Record what you’ve done across various domains once you’ve done it rather than planning what you intend to do). Review it at the end of the day/week – is life filled with ‘quick wins’ or can you see some of the ‘bigger stuff’ being acted upon? You may find you’re being overly hard on yourself and that you are progressing long-term aims.
Make the way ahead clear and compelling
Another reason we might find ourselves shying away from strategic activities and drawn to quick wins, is a lack of clarity about the end we’re trying to reach or how to get there. Imagine you want to grow your business but you don’t know by how much or what type of work/customers you want your growth to be fuelled by.