Think about the work you have done over the past week. How much of your agenda did you actually get done? Give it a percentage. Now think about how much of your time was spent focused on other people’s stuff. Emails, meetings, last minute requests, random favors etc. Rate that as well. The first list is the important stuff. Your agenda. Things that are important to your work, your life, your career. But when you really think honestly about your day, it’s often pretty clear that this stuff gets squeezed out, sometimes to becoming completely oblivious.
The second list is the urgent stuff. Now, some work is actually urgent. That last minute client proposal that could net you a huge sale. The meeting with your boss that’s looming on your calendar (well, any meeting with your boss could be deemed as urgent, let’s be real). Or a crisis that comes up at work that could cause havoc if not dealt with.
But if we are being real, these things don’t happen every day, and yet our agenda can still get wiped. Sometimes we let it happen because we’re not clear on what is actually important to us. At times we use the urgent items or the fake crises as a procrastination tool so we don’t have to focus on what matters. And sometimes, we just have no boundaries so we get swept up in anyone and everyone’s priorities except our own.
If we play this out past your immediate work agenda, ask yourself how much of your personally important items have been getting a look in lately. Crafting the vision for your life? Probably not lately. Building that career plan you keep thinking about? If you’re like 70% of women, then that’s not likely. Working out why you didn’t speak up in the meeting last week, because your confidence has taken a bit of a dive? Or working on your personal brand so you can take that next leap you’re dreaming of? My bet, and my experience with hundreds of clients, unfortunately is a big fat no and no.
Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Not even close. This is an epidemic amongst women. We work. We help. We please. We do other people’s bidding. And we get shit done. But it’s not always the important stuff that gets a look in, or the things that will help us move forward, achieve our goals, and propel us toward our dreams. And it’s absolutely to our detriment.
So what can you do? Here are a few tips that work for me and my clients you might want to implement;
- Get clear on your agenda. What is actually on your important list? Make a list of the three key goals you have for the next 3, 6 and 12 months. Make a work list, a career list and a personal list. Really spend the time you need to get clear. One of the easiest ways to get lost in other people’s agendas is by not having one of your own.
- Work out your percentages. When you look at how much time you are currently spending on your agenda versus other peoples, what does it look like? Where is the percentage between important and urgent? What drags you away from what you really want to get done? Lack of boundaries? Stories in your head about being liked, pleasing people, being seen as competent, not pissing people off? Being honest with yourself about all of the above is a great step here.
- Your agenda, first. Try and make sure whenever you can that your stuff gets done first. Your work. Your career plan. Your personal brand strategy. Your wellbeing. Make your agenda items the ones you do first thing in the morning, or in the first half of your day, and that they don’t get squeezed out by other people’s urgent demands. Put systems in place that help you focus and get your important work done.
- Be real about what’s neither. If you’re feeling stretched for time, then get real about the things that fall into neither category, and look at how much time you are spending on them. Watching Real Housewives of somewhere (my guilty pleasure) or having a Game of Thrones binge marathon is not important or urgent – even though it is occasionally good for the soul. Look at where your time is going and absolutely indulge in idle time wherever you can, just make sure that your important list is getting the time it deserves.
Finally, realize why important is important. Things like planning for the future, building a career plan, getting enough exercise and getting eight hours sleep are not urgent. There is not generally a crisis around them. But if you don’t make them important, and if you don’t make them matter, then you will find it really challenging to hit the works goals that matter to you, build the career plan that you really want… or have the life that is intentional, not just reactionary. You deserve the time, space and energy to create what matters most to you and to love your career and life. Getting clear on the important versus the urgent will absolutely help you do that.