More Important than Deciding What You'll Do…

….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?

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