Two Questions You Need to Make This Week Productive
The Quickest Way to Cut Through the Clutter to Get to What Matters
Maybe, like me, your inbox is flooded with offers — classes, challenges, and programs galore. So many promises. So many success stories.
I won’t pretend it’s not tempting.
I look at each offer and I wonder: what if this really is the silver bullet?
All it has led to, though, is second-guessing and frustration. I constantly wonder: Am I spending my time on the right things?
One day, when I felt particularly feisty, I crumpled up my to-do list and threw it in the garbage. Then, I opened my notebook to a fresh page, where I wrote these two questions:
What really matters this week?
What is the simplest, most effective way I can do that?
I had been too twisted up in all of the things other people said I needed to focus on. I completely lost sight of what it was all for.
I realized that what mattered most was taking really good care of my clients, investing in some partnerships, and tackling some writing goals.
None of the advice flying at me had anything to do with this small handful of important goals. And effectiveness was as simple as being present and engaged. I had everything I needed.
Since then, I have been in love with the simple and effective.
We’ve been sold this idea that, because the world is inherently complex, everything we do needs to be complex. But what if it doesn’t have to be?
I come from a world of “initiative overload.” At my last organization, we were very good at starting things, but not very good at finishing them. Our focus and our attention became increasingly diluted. Our actions became less and less effective. And the whole time, it was defended as the necessary pace of change in a complex world.
What were we changing, though? And was it for the better?
Change for the better only comes with results. Results take time and effort. We know this, and we want so badly to see results that it leaves us vulnerable. We start to equate time and effort with progress. We fall into the trap of thinking that if we’re talking about it and spending time on it, we’re making progress.
It has to be the right progress, though. It has to be progress toward our goals. It has to fit with our values, and our culture, and our context.
To make the right progress, we need to apply the right efforts. They need to be fully grounded in our goals, and our values, and what we do for our clients. And we have to be able to finish.
And the fact that all of it is complex is exactly why we want the simplest, most effective solutions. Solutions that are agile, so we can continue to adapt to our ever-changing world. Solutions that are easily communicated, so everyone is on the same page. Solutions that move the needle.
The irony is that it can actually be harder to stay simple. Complexity breeds more complexity.
So if you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, start by clarifying the goal.
What are you trying to achieve?
What are you responsible for delivering for your current clients?
What growth do you want to create?
Next, step into the shoes of your client or your target audience. What do they need from you?
Pay close attention to the intersection of your goals and their needs.
At first, it may seem like all of it intersects, but look closer at what you want to accomplish and what your clients need from you. Does everything on your plate clearly fit in that intersection? Maybe! But maybe not.
And when you can get very clear on what does belong in that intersection, you will find the simplest, most effective path forward.