“I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.” – Zig Ziglar
Have you ever had that feeling of just being overwhelmed? Not knowing where to start, or what to do? Paralyzed at all that is in front of you and seemingly helpless to get it all done? Or perhaps you know what’s important and what needs to be done, but you can’t get past the frustrations created for you by others. You rail about others who ‘haven’t done their job’ or maybe you criticize the decisions that were made above or beside you.
I know I’ve been in this situation before – many times. In fact, I deal with both perspectives on almost a daily basis. We are human. And these reactions are human nature. I could easily spend the better part of my days complaining about all I have on my plate. Like so many of us, I wear multiple hats. And while your situation may differ, I am certain it is no less demanding. Screaming clients, difficult candidates, the frequent requests from your management, a proposal that needs to be written, a dozen phone calls to be returned, and at least a hundred emails a day to be answered.
For most of us, it is overwhelming. So maybe we start trying to do it all. We dive right in and start working through it, task by task. We stop asking ‘where to start’ and instead just start at the top of the pile, regardless of relevance and impact. Or maybe we become distracted and spend our time questioning why certain decisions were made, speculating “Who decided that?” or better yet, “I wouldn’t have done it that way”.
Again, I’m guilty of this too. I’ve spent hours answering emails that aren’t relevant, or working on projects that are interesting but not critical – all while letting the urgent matters slip down in priority. I’ve caught myself engaged in hour-long conversations about a decision that someone else made, or why a different approach would have been better – only to lose precious time that could have been spent on issues I could control.
There is a way to solve this, if only we are willing to apply the self-control to achieve it. And it all boils down to one simple concept – FOCUS. But more importantly, FOCUS on the right things – the things that matter AND the things you can control. I love the graphic below which sums this concept up so well (props to Patty Buttery for showing it to me):
It’s really that simple. There are so many things in this world that matter. So many things at work that matter. So many things in our everyday lives that matter. Yet, so much of that is completely out of our control. A directive by management – however stupid it may seem – is just that. It’s already been decided. And so you can choose to spend time debating why, or you can spend time focusing on what you can do to affect it.
And the inverse is true. We are capable of so much. You could spend your time and energy doing so many things – successfully, I might add. But are they important? Do they matter? Is it relevant to your area of responsibility? And are there other things you are responsible that are more important?
Again, the key is what matters most AND what you can control.
Think about that the next time you find yourself paralyzed by all you have to do. Identify what’s important and what you can impact. Prioritize. Then spend your energy focused on those items first. You’ll find you are capable of achieving far more than you ever imagined.