Early in my career I was very focused on absorbing as much knowledge and information as I possibly could. This was part of a young zeal and ignorance to progress in my advancement as efficiently as possible. Fortunately some of those key learning points from decades past have stuck with me, and in my process of efficiency didn’t simply fly in one ear and immediately out the other. One of those key nuggets came from a time management course I attended.
During the class the instructor shared with us a suggestion, maybe even a trick, which I still use today. On particularly busy days when you are in between meetings, appointments, or tasks and only have a spare 15 minutes or so, he recommended that you ask yourself a question:
“What is that one thing I can do that is the absolute best use of my time right now?”
Over the past 25 years I think I have probably asked myself that question over 10,000 times. It almost always works. It works in that it creates immediate focus. Sometimes those six minutes I have just before I have to run out the door is used to return those two important emails or to work on that one critical paragraph in a client’s strategic plan. Regardless of how the time is used, the answer to the question usually comes quickly and allows me to utilize those few minutes wisely.
The question also works in that the answer, whatever it is, seems to have a calming effect. It allows me to focus on that one thing and block out everything else for a brief period. That answer just seems to cut through all the clutter, all the noise, and even all that is important but just needs to wait for now.
I share my little trick for two reasons. The first is that I believe it’s more useful today than back when I first learned it, given that there seems to be much more clutter and noise now than there was in the early 90′s. The second is I think this is the perfect time of year to ask that question.
As we are in the last few weeks of the year, many of us are caught in the fun but stressful acts of wrapping up goals, wrapping up projects, wrapping up plans, and wrapping up presents. This is not even mentioning the myriad of holiday mixers, parties, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, potlucks, get-togethers, gatherings, and interventions that pack our schedules whether we like them or not. It’s pretty easy to feel frazzled and overwhelmed.
In that one minute of peace that we can find today ask the question:
“What is that one thing that I should do before the end of the year for my business or myself?”
The answer might surprise you. For some it may be to meet with their best client and solidify that relationship for next year. For others it might be to finally pull the trigger on that partnership or acquisition. And for many it may simply be to take a period of time for themselves, possibly even by force, to relax and to re-center in order to be back to 100% effectiveness come January 1st. Whatever your answer is, it should create both some focus and some comfort.
Whether we fell a little short of exceeding our goals this year or had everything successfully wrapped up in November, the second most important assignment — to the aforementioned relationship building with family and friends — at this time of year is to begin thinking about how we are going to kick off January. And, no, I’m not talking about how many bowl games we are going to watch on New Year’s Day.