Searching for the Essential
Much of work should involve a search for the essential.
This is no small task since the average work day is filled with trivial distractions. Various individuals from a full range of departments compete for the chance to raise details about matters of remote relationship to anything central to the mission. Moreover, those matters may be an attractive respite from boring but more important tasks. It is easy to accord them undeserved status in order to justify goofing off.
The question is complicated because an unessential item may be on the verge of becoming essential and yet is demanding attention now. Time must also be set aside for matters that are not pressing but will be vital in several months or years.
Managers are often exorted to look far in the distance in order to spot a budding crisis. They are also told to plan their days and weeks around a set of priorities. Great benefit, however, can be gained by focusing on the next hour and then the next and then the next; always with an eye on the essential.
Some key questions:
- How much of my time is spent responding as opposed to acting?
- If I'm dealing with details, are they closely tied to essentials?
- Are my actions simply restoring the status quo or are they advancing the mission?
- Are my actions helping to achieve my first or second priorities or have I slipped further down the list?
- Are my actions superficial gestures or do they possess promise of serious impact?