January 8, 2021


I get it. I really do. I know you came up with that great resolution with every intent that this year would be different. Or maybe you were really intentional about goal setting using something like SMART Goals or even SMARTER Goals (thanks Michael Hyatt!). But you're one week into the year and realize that all of that has been left in the dust of life.

"Urgent things Shout, Important Things Whisper. Listen to the Whispers."

Ken Groen

We live in a world overwhelmed by the constant "ding!" of email or texts. The phone won't stop ringing, and most of it is from telemarketers or scammers. You get invited to the third meeting today and aren't really clear why you're there. Maybe your boss or co-worker just dumped a project on you that she promises shouldn't take you long. Your car broke down, or you missed your train. You get the picture.

Some urgent tasks may even be good, but are they the best use of your time right now?

It's okay to say "no" to good things so you can say "yes" to better things.

All of those urgent things conspire together to pull us away from the things we planned, with the best intentions, but now we don't know if we'll ever get back to what's really important. Instead, we're consumed by what Charles Hummel called "The Tyranny of the Urgent."

It really is tyranny, isn't it?

Tyranny has sometimes been described as cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control. In this case, it's control over our time, energy and motivation by the petty tyrants of busyness and other peoples' priorities or supposed emergencies.

Then, if you work from home like I do, add in a needy dog who doesn't understand why you're upstairs working at your desk when you could be playing with him (my issue as I write this).

We can't or won't say "no" because we feel some obligation, all the while knowing that many of these things won't move us toward the important goals we've set.

So, how do you overthrow these tyrants?

You have to put together a solid plan and consistently execute it. One of the best ways is to ensure that you're starting out understanding what's most important to you, crafting goals around those things and having a system for keeping those goals in front of you.

The process, and each step, shouldn't be overly complex, or you'll never do it. Also, the goals you set should be limited to the vital few. Too many goals divide your attention and pull you back into the distraction that you're fighting to overcome.

A process that works for me includes:

  1. Annual planning where I identify what's most important to me.
  2. I set two or three goals per quarter, at the most, and write them by hand (I know, old school, but there' something about writing things by hand that brings a greater focus than the best digital tools).
  3. Each week, I plan for the week ahead and pick 3 significant goals for the week.
  4. Each day I plan for my Daily Big 3 (Stephen Covey called the "Big Rocks") and I write them in my planner for the next day. Really? A paper planner?? What a Luddite! Again, old school, but I've tried every digital tool there is and have never found something better at keeping me focused.

Here's the power in all of this. First, as I've already said, writing them by hand. Second, frequent review. By having a system of quarterly, weekly and daily goals and tasks, you ensure that you regularly remind yourself of what's truly important. You protect your time around those tasks, and you commit to ensuring that, if you do nothing else that day, you at least do those Big 3.

While the overall goal may really stretch you, each of the Daily Big 3 tasks should be relatively easy, to ensure that you can complete them without feeling overwhelmed. A bite at a time, right?

Finally, frequent review allows you to keep tabs on how relative importance might change.

News Flash! You're allowed to change your goals if necessary, but YOU should be the one thoughtfully driving that process, NOT the Tyrants!

So, before I head downstairs to play with that needy puppy, I want to suggest a couple of resources that I've used to help me wrap my brain, processes and tools around the important things in life.

For the bigger picture, I recommend "Living Forward" by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy

For setting and achieving goals, one of the best best books I've found is "Your Best Year Ever" also by Michael Hyatt.

Building and executing a plan around the principles in these books will help ensure that you're able to listen to the whispers of the important and kick those shouting tyrants (not my dog!) to the curb.

Drop me a note in the comments. I'd love to hear about your successes (and your challenges) in this.

Until next time.... Ed O'Neal

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