….is deciding what you won’t do.
John Sculley was asked what was key to the genius of Steve Jobs. Listen to what he said: Jobs “always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do – but the things that you decide not to do.”
And that’s hard. Chances are your job is a constant series of demands, requests and opportunities. The best thing you can do is decide ahead of time what you won’t do. This will be difficult.
A year ago I decided to cut back on what I did. I had to eliminate whole categories of things I used to do. It took me a few months to develop that criteria working with our leadership team, my wife, my assistant, our elders and a leadership coach. But it’s well worth it even 12 months later.
In the end, I set up two days for writing and working ‘on it’ (not in it) (Mondays and Wednesdays) where I don’t go into the office at all, and two days for meetings (Tuesdays and Thursdays). Fridays is a float day for me…sometimes personal, sometimes catching up (especially in busy seasons)…sometimes doing things I just want to do. Saturdays is almost always a day off. I serve Sunday mornings and usually budget rest and family for the remainder of the day.
I narrowed my meetings to team meetings I needed to be involved in and direct report meetings. We even cut more out of my schedule than this, and it left me feeling that I was not involved in 99% of what was happening at Connexus where I serve. Which is exactly where I need to be as a leader – releasing and empowering staff and key volunteers and focusing on doing what only I can do within the organization.
Doing this is difficult. Here’s what I still struggle with sometimes:
I actually liked some of the things I no longer do
I feel bad disappointing people when I say I can’t meet with them or speak at an event
I feel like what I do is intangible even if it does add value (I mostly write messages, lead the staff and elders, vision cast and plot future direction)
I feel like I should be doing more
Saying no still isn’t fun
That said, I wouldn’t trade it. My workload and the number of opportunities has probably doubled in the last year, and having a clear sense of what I won’t do and what I will do has helped navigate that immensely.
Chances are you are feeling pulled in a million directions this week. So before deciding what you will do today and this month, decide something even more important: what you won’t do.
What have you learned about this? What have you stopped doing that you used to do? How has that helped? What do you miss?