First Things First: Tips to move you forward

When you have a to-do list the size of Montana, how do you tackle it? Do you have a fail-safe practice that garners favorable results consistently? Today’s tasks seem to multiply yet the hours in each day are stuck at 24. These tips can help get you centered and on track toward getting things done. What else can you add to help readers who struggle with too much to do? This could be the help you’ve been looking for.

When I whittle down my To-Do list, it feels terrific. However, the joy disguises the unpleasant fact that those finished items may not have been the ones most important to complete. On a list, everything appears equally important and it is easier to tackle a simple or non-essential task. In my pressing desire to get something done, I frequently overlook what is critical, what is outdated, or what has lost its importance. I justify diversions as motivational momentum to keep going, but that’s not what should dictate task selection.

Too often the time I spend on minor tasks sidetracks me from doing what is most important. I accept admonitions of “keeping your eye on the prize” or Stephen R. Covey’s (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) to do “first things first.” Yet, I can procrastinate. While Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind can decide to think about things tomorrow, I should not. The pace of change in the 1860s was leisurely.   Certainly, this is not the case today. Now, time matters since windows of opportunity close rapidly and risks mount. Quick response to critical issues is a necessity. Would you want a doctor to address a patient’s broken finger before attending to a blocked windpipe? Priorities and sequencing action are critical. Triaging a situation is not only good medical practice, the discipline works for all of us.

We all need to reassess what must be done first to ensure delivery of the desired result. This means resisting the temptation to quickly dash off a response without a full analysis. United Airlines CEO, Oscar Munoz’s, first reaction to a passenger being dragged off a plane on April 9, 2017, was incomplete, insensitive, disrespectful and later regretted. He damaged the brand and spurred Congressional hearings.

Consider the following triage concepts for your To-Do list:
  1. Confirm information and assumptions to prioritize what must be done first. Not everything is a number one priority.
  2. Take a proactive role to prevent significant issues from escalating into a crisis. Early intervention pays dividends.
  3. Recognize recurrent firefights and search for a cause, rather than repeatedly addressing symptoms. While it feels good to put out fires, preventing them is much wiser.
  4. Accept that you cannot successfully multi-task challenging issues. Critical issues deserve your full attention and creative thinking.
  5. Know what to cut from your To-Do list and challenge the necessity of new tasks. Many issues are mundane and should be delegated or canceled.
  6. Concentrate on adding value for the long-term. Attention to customers must come before busy work or administrative trivia.
  7. Employ out-of-the-box thinking and mental agility. Today’s problems cannot be solved by yesterday’s solutions.
  8. What would you add, that has worked well for you?
There are only 24 hours in a day, so use them wisely. Concentrate on achieving your goals and the actions that move you toward them. Learn to say no to wasteful pursuits and distractions so that your time is optimized. You will reduce stress and achieve better outcomes.

This article was first published by BizCatalyst360.

Motivational Power: Who Wants to be a Donkey?!

By Mary Lippitt | April 12, 2011Motivation Leadership

It’s time to update the carrot and stick approach. A cartoon of a donkey hitched to a wagon with a stick in front of it with a carrot enticing the donkey highlights the problem of trying to influence action without thinking about ramifications.

For centuries, dangling the carrot in front of the hardworking donkey or threatening the animal with the stick were two types of motivational power leaders used. Just as technology has advanced, we must expand this narrow view. Encouraging our leaders to rise to the challenges of new workforce expectations, requirements, and levels of competition requires more than a carrot or a stick.

Employee motivation, be it positive or negative, is a direct result of the appropriate use of power by a leader. Power is a bit of a dirty word that inspires a love-hate relationship. On one hand, it is connected to strength, forward motion and inspiration. On the other, it is often connected to despots, tyrants and evil bosses. The love, or carrot, of power reflects the ability to motivate others to achieve goals. The negative, or stick, stems from the forceful use of power over others that yields distorted behavior, corrupted decision making, or reduced initiative. Bearing both of these associations in mind, the use of power accomplishes goals and stirs engagement among employees.

While it is convenient to only have to evaluate two options: punish or reward, motivating both people and animals is much more complicated. The assumption is that we are just a “dumb” means to accomplish a goal diminishes us to the single task of cart hauling.

The fast reaction to the carrot or stick overshadows more sustainable options. Everyone may welcome a bonus but after a month, what is the power of the monetary incentive? Feeling like your contributions led to successful goal achievement, a sense that people trust and respect your experience, or the recognition that your insights made a critical difference in gaining support offers long lasting benefits.

How have you reacted when a “stick” strategy is evident? What motivates you? What type of motivational power have you used to bring out the best in others?