The only thing a cat worries about is what’s happening right now. As we tell the kittens, you can only wash one paw at a time. – Lloyd Alexander, Time Cat
We all know people who are very busy managing a huge number of commitments.
They’re busy with work, family, finances and the myriad other things that come with modern life.
And if you look at just one of those areas they’re juggling things all the time – keeping all those balls in the air.
The intention here is to keep things going, to make sure nothing falls and smashes on the ground – all this effort to keep things the same.
But is this model really the one we should be using?
Or is there a different approach that should be considered?
Imagine, for example, that you are a leader in an agency – one that provides services to clients.
Perhaps its management or marketing or finance – something on those lines.
What are the main things you need to do?
Well, there’s marketing – getting out there and being visible so that people are aware that you exist and know how to get in touch.
There’s sales, where you figure out how to add more value to a client than you take from them.
There’s the service itself, which you need to deliver to a high standard while continually looking for ways to improve and innovate.
And then there’s the team of employees and associates you work with, who all need to play nicely together to deliver what the customer needs.
One way you could split your time is by doing a little every day – making sure you balance things out between these core areas.
In practice, what you probably do is spend time on the area that interests you the most – perhaps service delivery if you like doing the work or sales if you prefer to work your network and talk to people.
These sorts of approaches still carry the idea of balance and control with them – an underlying sense that things should be “manageable”.
In Gary Keller’s book The one thing he talks about this idea of balance and says that perhaps that’s a myth.
Instead, what you do is focus intensely on one thing and then switch to the next thing and focus intensely on that one.
You don’t share time or give it just enough – you give it your all for a very focused period and then move on to the next item.
In this kind of world priorities don’t exist.
There is only the priority.
The one thing that matters most right now.
The image I have that tries to express this is a game of Tetris.
You have different blocks, labelled with the things you need to manage.
If you’ve played the game you know that switching between blocks is a bad idea.
You need to pick one, focus, get it into place and then move to the next one.
You spend some time, hours, days, weeks on say service.
You spend that time getting things done, making sure it works until you’re happy you can leave it for a while.
Then you shift to the team, building up your colleagues and making sure they have the training and understanding to do the right thing right.
Now you can shift to marketing, spending more time getting out there and being visible, starting to bring in the leads.
And then you shift to sales, moving conversations on, writing proposals and getting the work booked in.
The point of this approach is that some things matter more than others at some time.
The blocks closest to the bottom matter most if they’re not aligned right.
Once they are, another one needs your attention.
The thing to remember at the end, though, is that it’s still a game.
Something you need to do at Work might be a priority.
But it’s not always the most important thing.
But you know that already.