The shortest distance between two points is a straight line or so my high school geometry teacher convinced me. A to B shouldn’t run through C,D or R. As the crow flies will get you there in less time, if you could actually fly and if crows were plain geometry wizards. I do understand that the Pythagorean theorem shows that the diagonal is shorter than going round the block (so to speak). But what if shortest distance, fastest time, or least effort isn’t the metric we should be striving to meet? What if honouring curiosity, lifelong learning, answering wicked questions and exploring life were the expectation, would A to B still make sense?
Is this the same sentiment that leads us to confusion between urgent and important?
Do you respond to urgency with a goal of short circuiting the immediacy? When you get a call or a text from a customer, a client or a colleague with ” we need to talk, right now” as either the tacit or implied message,do you put everything else aside and connect with them? Even if what you are doing or working on is important to you and you are in an important flow state towards important goals? If you answered “yes. Of course” you may have an issue that will eventually consume you and your quest for creating meaning.
A healthier response and one that allows for the foundation of boundaries might be ” I appreciate your call, I am working on an important assignment at the moment. Can we schedule time in 3 hours (or tomorrow)? Is there something I can prepare for before we connect?” Creating a respectful boundary and acknowledging your respect for their needs/concerns should be enough of a response. If they get ‘huffy’ or excessively demanding, it may be time to reframe or disengage from the relationship. If you understand that shortest distance only measures expediency rather than innovation, creativity, productivity, and doesn’t allow for as yet unimagined possibilities to bubble up.
On the days that I take a moment to meander, I see differently and find new insights that inform the assignment differently. I get to test a different path and even when it doesn’t lead anywhere that I can justify, it isn’t a wasted effort.
It takes courage to be an adventurer, checking out trails and backwoods, but a single minded focus on black and white, linear highways regardless of how fast it gets you there or how many others are using the same path only creates more of what you already have.
If you have been the person at the other end of the conversation above – the instigator of urgency. Stop it. Be respectful. Honour boundaries. Explore less ‘efficient’ paths.
Make Today Remarkable, by meandering towards an adventure,
I know, I just made up another word but I hope that it prompts you to consider how your are spending your time. By combining urgent with agenda I want you to consider if you are only reacting in the moment rather than attempting to follow your ‘plan’. Plan is in ” because as readers here know I believe that in our ever changing world plans can’t be rigid do I guess I’m asking are you following your flexible life agenda to your preferred future?
Yesterday, I needed to remind myself that the urgency I was feeling needed to be examined and found that I was reacting to the reasonable expectations of someone else. Their expectations (demands) were reasonable for them to reach their shot term goal but unreasonable for me because it took me off my change agenda and pulled me away to do something that wasn’t important (to my goals).
I am not sure how we deal with these external challenges or the internal procrastination voices that create false urgency when we should be focused but examining the moment is worthwhile. Yesterday, I was able to say ” I am working on something else right now but will make time after 3 to take a look at your request”. They were a bit surprised that I didn’t jump to their request but seemed to accept my response. I then turned on Pomodoro and did four 25/5 sessions that quieted the voice of delay and guilt in my head. I got a lot accomplished and then returned to respond to the urgenda of someone else.
Make Today Remarkable by recognizing what is important,
When asked “how are you doing?” do you respond with something like ” Good, busy but good.”? What does that mean? Is it a ‘pat’ answer? What are you busy at? It seems busy is laudable. Busy is respected. Busy is expected? But is busy meaningful, productive or healthy?
What would happen if you change the response? What if you said ” Good question. Let me think about that.” ” I am really enjoying my time at work and feeling like we are accomplishing all our goals. I get to spend time with family and friends and much needed time alone. My health is good and I am in a great place emotionally.” Too much? Maybe, but certainly more meaningful than ‘busy’.
My confession is that I don’t feel busy. I don’t strive to feel busy. I love the pace that I am able to live life at. Am I missing anything? Likely, but in this moment I get to treasure the blessings and look forward to opportunities. Will I regret not being busier? I doubt it, when my time comes I hope there aren’t any regrets.
Can you become un-busy? Easy to say, harder to do. In this case(maybe in most cases) saying it is the beginning. Try not saying the B word for a week and see what unfolds itself. Observe where your priorities shift. Is watching another reality tv program or checking Facebook again still as urgent? Did you find time to get important stuff done and find time for you to enjoy the blessings in your life?
Make this week remarkably un-busy,
About a year ago, CanadaHelps published an article Canada’s charities deserve better on their website written by Brad Offman, Managing Director of the Mackenzie Charitable Giving Fund. While I agree with some of his assertions that community benefit investors (donors) have been coached to use some largely irrelevant metrics like admin or fundraising %s, I think he has missed the mark.
“the fact remains that over 85,000 other charities are doing precisely the work that most of us admire: feeding the needy, housing the homeless, nursing the sick and educating the young.” doesn’t earn them exclusive and ongoing support without discernment and investigation.
I wrote a comment to the blog that was posted on the site for a short time but has disappeared. Their post, their rules – I accept that.
I need to make the case that any metric other than impact towards solving the issue is largely irrelevant. Homeless shelters can warehouse people for a much lower cost per head than transition housing but if you are paid for the heads on mats there is little incentive to lift these people off the mats and onto their own feet. If I could find a shelter that was rapidly raising men, women and families from poverty to sustainability while honouring their dignity, it wouldn’t matter to me what their administration costs were as a percentage of expenses.Helping people out of homelessness rather than helping them live in their homelessness is something I would support.
Raising awareness about an issue is important but if it doesn’t lead to immediate, relevant and concrete action, it is just more air being blown in the wind.I understand that reinforcement and multiple messages are important factors but if you stand on your soapbox for a year and nothing changes, you need to think about your message and your tactics.
Tom Suddes post this week Does it Make the Boat Go Faster drove me back to this article and has me wondering if urgency should be the measure.
I am heading into a couple of days of strategic positioning and exploration. I am always excited by the prospects and like many people a bit apprehensive about the unknown.
Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse. ~Winston Churchill
Ambiguity fits with my style and I am comfortable stepping forward when the path isn’t clear but those around me might need more certainty.
Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. ~Steve Job
The cusp of greatness is upon us but large institutions and individuals are resistant. How do we get our feet moving? The first small step is just a first small step, but the second and third and … are what propels movement. I commit to taking five steps and seeing if that unsticks us.
Mindless habitual behavior is the enemy of innovation. ~ Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Sometimes it feels like my world is spinning out of control. Busyness captures me and I resort to tried and true rituals rather than exploring remarkable opportunities. In this place, in this time, with these people we should expect miracles but often seemed mired in mediocrity quicksand. Multitasking my way to bounded rationality where “I have too much to do” has been my refrain and excuse for not shipping my very best. My best intentions don’t seem to produce my best work. Only when I focus and deepen my efforts do I see the quality and results I am known to achieve.
Practice makes perfect – not likely. Poor practice delivers poor results.
My battle with mediocrity is the same one I have with procrastination. My important priorities don’t receive attention because I can always create something urgent (often more fun or easier) that looks important. The gravity pulls me to do something else, almost anything else – the laundry, checking Facebook, … When I set priorities for each day (I started with 3) and don’t just tick boxes but rather complete them deeply, fully and to the best of my ability, I celebrate.
Mark Twain said ‘Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.’ I try get the most difficult task done first and when I succeed the Twain adage is true. I can feel myself pulling away from mediocrity towards miraculous. I feel better, lighter, readier. I am strengthened by the effort. After years of practice, this hasn’t become habitual and I need to remain vigilant or mediocrity invites me back.
Remarkable people use their strengths to strengthen themselves and others. When I am mired in the quicksand, up to my knees in averageness, I am not strong. Today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow I am committed to being strengthened and breaking away from the pull. How about you, what miracle could you create in three days?
Make Today, Tomorrow and the Next Remarkable,
Edit – just received notice that the master of productivity David Allen is hosting GTD Fundamentals next month for those who are serious about getting out of the quicksand.