Just too many expectations…or, do you know what you're not doing?
In a recent telephone interview, a client asked me, “What does a person do when there are too many expectations placed on them?” This is a very real, and timely concern for many knowledge workers. The real question people face at work is not“what should I do?” it is, “What am I going to chose NOT to do?”
I trust and the David Allen Company teaches that the easiest way to work on something is to know what is not getting done. That may be an interesting spin; getting one thing done can be viewed as choosing NOT to get something else done! To the degree that I have processed e-mail, voice mail, my paper in-box, and the consistent mind sweep that pour out of my brain, I am able to focus on what I'm doing…right now.
I make it a point, at least two hours before I deliver any seminar, or engage in a workflow coaching session, to do a 20-30 minute review of my outstanding, pre-defined expectations. (See Meg Gott's essay on the three-fold nature of daily work.) I actually review my @Calls, @Computer, @Errands, even my @Home lists! I do this to clarify and negotiate with myself everything that can wait, at least until the end of the day. This gives me the focus I need to maximize my time, energy and focus on the most important expectation: Delivering outstanding work for the client.
Although we didn't solve the client's issue of managing too much, I do know that the consistent process of defining work helps. Identifying the Next Action on each of the current projects you're managing, and organizing those for an easy review, makes it possible to know at a glance what you're not doing. I continue to see in so many seminars and coaching situations the freedom and focused energy people experience as they apply the critical thinking necessary to know what they're not doing.
There is more to do than can be done; this is true for most of us. Fortunately, having all of those next actions identified and organized naturally makes it easier to intuitively decide what NOT to do. The so what here: When you know what you're not doing, you can fully concentrate where your focus is…right now.