I say one of my favorite sayings all the time, and it always goes something like this:
“We all have a hundred things on our plate, but are you working on the right things today?”
Easy enough to say, but harder still to deliver on. Why? Because we are creatures of habit. We show up (physically) on Monday morning. We check email and voice mail and then “ping pong syndrome” begins.
What is “ping pong syndrome”?
Reacting. Bouncing back and forth between all the things competing for your attention all day long. Reacting to emails and voice mails, trying to deliver for our leaders, reacting to our Clients’ needs, and dealing with our teams’ issues. We react to the voices in our heads, feedback from family and friends, and what the media and society tell us we should be doing. We spend so much time reacting all week, that before we know it, its Friday.
Did you know?
A University of California – Irvine study showed that information workers are interrupted on average every 3 minutes. In addition, a study at Intel showed people spending 20 hours per week processing email. (source: IEEE Spectrum)
The challenges to maintaining strong mental focus have never been greater. To help, here are two insanely practical tools that can help you BE CERTAIN you are working on the right things, and avoiding ping pong syndrome:
Goal Setting Worksheet
This Goal Setting Worksheet will help you organize your goals, to dos, and/or projects to help you make the biggest impact in your life or career.
Here’s what you do:
- Place all of your goals, tasks, or projects in the quadrants.
- Quickly, you’ll find the things that have low effort/ high impact. Work on those first.
- Move to those things in the high effort/high impact quadrant!
Weekly Planner Template
This Weekly Planner Template (inspired from the teachings of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)will help you organize the most important things to do in each “role” you play in your life. Combined with the Goal Setting Worksheet above, you can easily identify those things that will have the biggest impact.
Creating one each week should not take you longer than 10 minutes.
Here’s how to use it:
- Simply write in all of the roles you have. As you’ll see in my example, I put in things like Husband, Father, Team Leader, etc.
- Then, ask yourself “What is the most important thing I can do in this role this week?”
- Pull the best high impact/low effort and high impact/high effort goals, tasks, or projects that you will accomplish THIS WEEK from the Goal Setting Worksheet, or any other to-do list you maintain.
- Fill in the “Sharpening the Saw” section – which contains the 4 areas of your personal development each week. Sharpening the Saw refers to Habit 7 in the The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and helps you prioritize your self-growth while organizing the rest of your life. Learn more about organizing your life with FranklinCovey.
Hopefully these two tools will help you focus your biggest decision – where to spend your time – much more effectively. Will you be able to consistently do this type of goal setting each week? Not always. But, doing this more often than not, and getting in the habit of doing so is time extremely well spent.