If you’re like many people, you expect a lot – of self and others – on the job. How much of the stress you experience comes from trying to juggle too many roles, goals, and projects simultaneously?
While you may have a dozen or more items on your project list, remember that the maximum most people can juggle well is five to seven priorities. (Yes, you can pretend to carry more, but the reality is that the more complexity you hold the less effective you become).
From your long list, identify the top three to four then focus all your energy on those vital few priorities. When one is completed, pull another up to the top, but try to never hold more than four at a time. You will find that you get more done (and at a higher quality) by working on ONLY four priorities at a time than you did when you tried to juggle ten or twelve.
Why is this true? It’s a lesson from basic physics: when you eliminate the friction – i.e. resistance, discontinuity, resource and schedule conflicts – between those multiple simultaneous priorities, the energy that used to go into unproductive juggling now goes into DOING.
An Exercise for the Workplace
Reach out to an associate (peer or direct report) who appears overwhelmed. Put yourself in the place of a coach, and ask: “What would you be able to accomplish tomorrow if you only had to worry about ONE THING?” Draw out an answer, then help them structure the next day around that single focus and protect them from distractions.
This may not be a drill you can do often; yet you will be amazed at the payback from your efforts. For people who are feeling stuck and overwhelmed, even a single day of feeling productive can help them renew hope and reconnect to their work.
Remember: Leadership is not about a title. The most effective leaders are those who can cut through the clutter and crap to focus on what is most important. Anyone can be a leader who can help others Simplify and focus so that more of what matters is what gets done!