Tis the Season. Focus, Choose and Delegate.

The idea of “doing it all” is both a myth and a trap. For an organization, such thinking fragments vision and squanders resources. For an individual, attempting an “everything” approach fractures purpose and depletes energy. Achieving your highest purpose requires embracing the critical skills of focusing, choosing and delegating.

The holiday season offers a perfect opportunity to practice. An abundance of year-end tasks and additional social events challenge even the most organized. Filtering our options takes three steps: Focus, Choose, and Delegate. Let me share a few of my own decisions this year as an example.

  1. Focus. Without clear understanding of our purpose, values and objectives, we lack a means to prioritize. My mission involves enabling leaders to identify their highest purpose and passionately execute. I can quickly articulate top priorities:
  • My top professional priorities between now and the end of the year involve the students in the Emerging Leaders course I taught this fall and my dissertation research.
  • On the home front, members of my immediate family may be moving overseas for three years. Making special memories with the children before the relationship relies on virtual communication is a high priority.

If you haven’t yet invested time to clarify what’s important for you, block out time in your schedule now. Click here to read a post that begins this process.

  1. Choose. Notice that choice is an action. What “must do” items align with your top priorities? Which items don’t make the cut?
  • Professionally, my student’s final papers mirror a corporate requirement such as year-end reporting. This is an important “yes.” In the same way corporate reporting summarizes a company’s achievements and provides insight to investors, the final papers and grading cycle are my last opportunity to provide feedback and encouragement on the academic and life journey of my students.
  • Just as critical are my professional “no” decisions. I’ve committed to not adding new clients to my coaching practice while I complete my research. At the same time, these individuals’ lives are important, so I transition the opportunity to my delegate list.
  • Personally, I’ve selected amongst a laundry list of potential holiday obligations. For example, I planned a special evening for kids to decorate gingerbread cookies. I chose only three holiday events to attend. I’ve chosen not to decorate this year.

I wholeheartedly agree with Greg McKeown’s* premise in his writing on essentialism: when we don’t choose, we’re making a default decision to allow others to make choices for us. The person who chooses controls the tradeoffs of priority, time, energy and outcomes. Not saying “no” divides the attention and resources we can allocate, impacting our success and satisfaction related to “yes” priorities.

  1. Delegate. Assure important priorities get necessary attention by empowering others to employ their creativity and energy to the task.
  • For recent coaching requests, I’m offering to:
    • Refer clients to colleagues, or
    • Suggest readings and self-tasks to allow them to prepare for coaching that can be deferred to a later start date.

If I try to “fit in” new clients—however enticing that may be—at a time when a surge in my research activity is my top priority, I invite potential failure on two fronts. Not delegating means I wouldn’t be fully present to either

(a) provide an exceptional coaching experience, or

(b) devote undivided attention to producing an excellent contribution to the field of leadership development.

  • At home, all holiday preparation has been delegated. As an example, I’ve purchased gifts during the year and stashed them in the closet. My husband and son may choose any method to get these ready—boxes, gift wrap, bags, bows or no bows. Additionally, they’ll identify any remaining gaps and plan how to fill them.

As leaders, we face a constant barrage of information and opportunity. When we don’t actively choose, we risk compromising our mission and failing to productively execute. The holiday season, with it’s influx of potential options, offers an excellent chance to practice “focus-choose-delegate” and model a balanced prioritization approach for others. I hope sharing examples of choices I’ve made this year offer inspiration …

What’s on your list? How are you addressing the challenge of competing priorities? Take a moment to comment and share your thoughts at our LEADistics Facebook Community.

Image: (c) 2014 Kathryn Bingham “To Do Example-Focus Choose Delegate” All Rights Reserved


*As mentioned in a previous post, I highly recommend Greg’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. His book offers a rational counterpoint to the “do it all” view and steps for exploring / adopting an essentialist’s mindset. Click the link to view on Amazon.

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