Karen Darrin

Seth Godin is a rock star and if you haven’t heard of him, read him or listened to his insightful wisdom on his slew of podcast interviews, well, so much for you and business in today’s world. He is direct, articulate, a certifiable genius, and thinks about things that are six months in advance — cue last week’s blog on IMPORTANT vs. Urgent. 

How does Seth Godin focus on the important over the urgent? What is his superpower? I think he is clear about what is important and is committed to working on the important first. Sounds simple but it is not easy.

It’s natural to want to get deadline-driven tasks squared away. A paradox many people face is that our most meaningful tasks are less likely to have deadlines than tasks that are relatively unimportant. Your important priorities might relate to:

  • living your values
  • expanding vital skills
  • improving your health
  • achieving recognition
  • saving the world

If you’re like most people, these priorities slip to the back of your mind while you work on low-importance, time-specific tasks, such as booking travel plans or clearing out your email inbox.

So, what can you do? Here is a list of practical strategies and tips:

Define what is important to you.

Spend the time to clarify what you want to stand for and how you want to be remembered.  And keep in mind that values can shift as you change.  Consider a reevaluation of your values from time to time.

Create more “important” by scheduling tasks around them.

Double the time for those important tasks. Important tasks can be unpredictable and may have a long learning curve. Working on them often feels more clumsy than efficient, which is another subtle factor in why we don’t do them.

Lofty goals will keep us stuck. Break it down into small, “turtle sized steps” that are ridiculously easy to accomplish. You will be making progress before you know it.

Embrace your emotions.

Many important tasks involve tolerating thinking about things that could go wrong, which is anxiety-provoking. Examples: making a will or investigating a lump. Working on important things typically requires having good skills for tolerating uncomfortable emotions. You’ll be better able to pursue goals that involve going outside your psychological comfort zone if you have top-notch skills for managing your thoughts and emotions.

Spend less time on unimportant tasks.

Set a time limit. Make a decision which is better than agonizing over the “perfect” decision. Move forward and check that bugger off your list and appreciate how great that feels. It can be an addicting feeling!

Prioritize tasks that will reduce your number of urgent but unimportant tasks.

To overcome a pattern of spending all day being busy, outsource, automate, batch small tasks, eliminate tasks, streamline your workflow, or create templates for recurring tasks. Look for situations in which you can make an investment of time once to set up a system that will save you time in the future. Teach your teams and direct reports to present their recommendations, instead of coming to you for decisions.

Schedule time to examine your life from an “eagle’s view.”

Day-to-day “busyness” is focusing on the details. You are locked in “mouse vision” getting these urgent items off your plate. Slot time to appreciate and bask in “eagle vision.” Examples would be scheduling regular check-ins with colleagues, your financial planner, your doctor. Evaluate how your day-to-day habits are building your future and make any needed adjustments.

Let go of “perfection.”

Aiming for perfection is what causes people to stay stuck. Instead, implement strategies that will incrementally move you in the right direction but don’t require much effort.

If you’re struggling with prioritizing the important over the urgent, don’t be too hard on yourself. If Seth Godin can do it, so can you. This challenge is a universal one. Develop ways to focus on the big picture and stop self-sabotaging or criticizing yourself. We are all a work in process.


CALL TO ACTION:  Do you want to improve your leadership skills? Let’s brainstorm some strategies to do just that. Slot a complimentary 30-min consult here:  Schedule Free Consult.

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