Stop working on other people’s priorities

Hello and welcome back to part seven of our ten-week leadership healthy habits mini-series that addresses some of the most significant challenges leaders face in the workplace.

False priorities

Work is busy, and it's getting busier.

I was with a client recently who felt that trying to implement my morning routine of journaling and planning was a step too far. She felt that something which was supposed to provide clarity and focus was instead creating more anxiety.

I get that. I really do.

Because if I'm honest, with so much going on, I've felt the same over the past few months.
But at the same time, I'm one hundred percent convinced that slowing down to speed up is the right approach.

That anxiety we feel when we sit down and pause for just fifteen minutes at the start of each day to reflect and plan is a vital data point. It proves how much we need to pause for thought.

We need to move through that anxiety as we reprogram our brains to work, and live, in a much more effective way. Because as a result of many years in the corporate world, we've come to believe that busyness is a sign of our value in the workplace.

But are we busy doing the right work?
Or are we just reacting?

We've come to believe that our first priority is logging on and checking our emails each day. But truth be told, most of us check our emails on our phones long before we get anywhere near our computers. We probably don't even make it to the shower before checking our emails!

What does it do to our mental state when the first thing we see each morning is 50 new emails containing requests from our boss, issues from customers or suppliers, and a news round-up telling us all that is bad and broken in the world?

Let me tell you what it does.

It steals our focus, increases our anxiety, and puts us on the back foot.

The email experiment

But what if we didn't check our emails first thing in the morning?

Several years ago, I ran an experiment taken from Tim Ferriss' book The 4-Hour Workweek.
I set a constant out-of-office on my primary email account, saying that I was only checking my emails at 12 and 4 pm. I included my mobile number if anyone needed to contact me for anything that really couldn't wait.

It was a scary process, and a few people, my wife included, told me that they thought it was a bit odd when they received the out-of-office reply.

But my productivity improved. I started getting my most important work done in the morning before reacting to the stuff in my inbox, which isn't usually my top priority.

It's wasn't easy, though, and it was a little scary. I had all the thoughts that you'd expect. What if my clients get frustrated and ditch me? What if I miss something urgent and the dreaded FOMO!

But guess what?

Nothing happened, nothing changed externally, and nobody seemed bothered.

Moreover, not one person called my mobile saying they needed an urgent response to their email.

The world kept turning, and I kept all of my amazing clients.

I don't still have that Out of Office message now, but I continue to check my email much less and shut Outlook when I'm doing other tasks. It's just too much of a distraction otherwise.

One minute mastery - take action

Defining Leadership & Management with John Mark Williams

In this episode of the podcast we look at how to adapt your leadership style, as a result of working in different countries and cultures along with how Covid-19 is affecting leadership.

And there was no way I was going to have the CEO of the Institute of Leadership and Management on the show and not ask him about his thoughts on the difference between leading and managing – and whether the age-old debate even matters.

Recommended Read

Turned down by 26 out of 27 publishers, The 4-Hour Work Week nearly didn’t become the No.1 New York Times Bestseller it went on to be. Tim Ferriss wrote ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’ for all those tired of postponing their life until retirement, who instead want to live life large and in the moment, right now.

Regardless of whether you want the benefits of retirement now, the book is full of practical ideas to implement in order to be more effective at work (and in life generally), which is entirely different from being more efficient.

Click the image to buy now via Amazon.

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