Filters are all around us. Instagram made filters popular as a way to enhance the photos that you post. Companies use filters during the hiring process to determine who is (or isn’t) a good fit for a role. You and I use filters everyday. We filter what words to say or stories to share (or not share) depending on our audience.
As leaders, it’s vital that we know the filters we are using especially when it comes to determining success.
In this Your Leadership Coach video, I share a story about a time I got rejected and how that moment taught me a good leadership lesson on the importance of our decision-making criteria. Check it out:
Take some time this week to think through the filters you are using. What criteria are you using to determine success, the friends in your inner circle who you let speak into your life, the people that you admire and try to emulate your leadership after?
Are you using the “right” criteria? Are those filters going to help you get the results that you truly want? If not, then refocus your filters.
Last year around this time my wife and I did what a lot of people decided to do during quarantine, and that’s house projects. One of the areas we focused on was spring cleaning in our garage. Like many, our garage had become the official storage space for anything that we either couldn’t find a place for in the house or for things that we might use in the future.
So what did our spring cleaning look like? There were three basic steps we took:
In the same way that spring cleaning is beneficial for the organizational “health” of our houses and personal life, a “spring cleaning” of your mind is valuable for your mental health.
Here’s how to do it…
When my wife and I were working in our garage, we didn’t write out everything we had in there but we did look at all of the stuff that filled up our garage and ended up physically touching each one so that it could go into its proper place.
The first step to our mental spring cleaning is to get everything out of your mind. Seriously, take 30 minutes and write out all of the tasks, thoughts, and feelings you’ve been having.
The reason why this is so important is that, as David Allen talks about in his book Getting Things Done, all these thoughts and feelings create open loops in your mind. It’s like tabs on a computer screen. The problem is that these open loops decrease your critical thinking skills and reduce your ability to make good decisions.
Close the loops by writing them down.
As my wife and I were going through each individual item in our garage, we created three piles: keep, trash, and donate.
In the same way, after you have listed out everything (or at least the majority of things on your mind), it’s time to organize your inventory list.
The first pile you need to create is a “No Control” list. As you look at your list ask yourself, “Can I control this?” We spend a lot of time being concerned with things that are out of our control. As David Allen says, “It’s a waste of time and energy to keep thinking about something that you make no progress on. And it only adds to your anxieties.”
Look over your list and move all those items you can’t control to the “No Control” pile. This won’t immediately stop you from dwelling on those things, but this simple act of writing them out and recognizing you can’t control them is a starting point.
The second pile is “Non-Actionable Items.” As you study the remainder of your items, ask yourself, “Is this something I need to do or just want to remember or recall when needed?” The latter could be ideas, birthdays/anniversaries, a favorite recipe, etc. These items need to be stored somewhere. There are many different systems you can use: a physical file cabinet, digital filing systems like Dropbox or Evernote, or even the Notes app on your phone.
The key is to put it in a place where you can easily access the information when you need to. (I write more about organization systems here.)
If you have moved the appropriate items on your inventory list into the first two piles, then the remaining items become your third pile, “Actionable Items.” These are the tasks that you want/need to get done.
After my wife and I categorized all of our items in the garage and saw the things we wanted to keep, we got shelves and organized them. So for you, the next step is to organize and prioritize your “Actionable Items.” Which do you need to do vs. want to do? Are there any deadlines attached? Which tasks are going to provide the most value or impact professionally or personally? Which items are you going to do this next week or this next month?
These questions will help you organize those items into manageable tasks.
It’s important to keep a room organized after it’s been organized. My wife and I have made a commitment to keep our garage somewhat organized. We use the shelves, think through what items are being put in the garage and continue to ask ourselves, “Do we need to keep this, trash it, or donate it?”
Don’t let your mind get full of open loops again and wait until the “spring” to clean it. Do this on a regular basis. For me I keep a note in my phone entitled “Daily Notes.” Every time something comes to my mind I immediately write it down in that note. Then either at the end of the day or end of the week, I review that note and filter what’s in it. Can I control this? Is this actionable? If not, store it. If so, then what priority does it have compared to what else is on my plate.
Remember, you don’t solve the issue of open loops, you continually manage them.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Carve out a few hours to do a spring cleaning of your mind and use these steps:
Step 1: Write down everything (or a majority of things) on your mind.
Step 2: Organize that list into three “piles” or categories: No Control, Non-Actionable Items, and Actionable Items.
Step 3: Maintain your mental organizational system through writing things down immediately and putting them in their proper place.
Do you often find yourself getting frustrated at your direct reports, co-workers, or even family members? Is your leadership and/or life lacking joy and fulfillment?
I recognize that there are no simple answers to finding more enjoyment in our leadership or life. But a few weeks ago, I went on a walk and was taught a valuable lesson on two secrets to leading and living with more fulfillment.
The majority of leaders that I talk to (and work with) want to grow and develop. They want to become a great manager and desire to maximize their potential.
The only issue is that for many of these aspiring leaders, they are not sure where to begin. Creating a development plan or growth track seems daunting.
Thankfully, it’s actually not as difficult as you might think.
When I work with leaders and coaching clients, here are the steps I go through to help them create a customized development plan:
Determine the destination. What strength do you want to refine or what weakness do you want to get to par or average? What is one thing you want to be true about yourself at the end of this year? These questions will help you come up with the end goal or desired destination for your development plan. There are also many assessment tools you can take to help you identify your strengths. I highly recommend Gallup’s Cliftonstrengths.
Create the course. What knowledge and/or skills will help you develop that strength, weakness, or make that identity statement come true? (This could include books to read, podcasts to listen to, courses to take, videos to watch, or experts to interview.)
Prepare the path. Organize those knowledge and skill areas by creating milestones – when you want to accomplish each one. Carve out time in your schedule to work on your development plan each week. Remember, “what gets scheduled, gets done.”
Refine the rumble strips. This means you need to create accountability mechanisms. Things that will remind you when you are getting off track. The two that I highly recommend are (1) an accountability partner: someone you share your goals with and who can encourage and challenge you as needed; and (2) the weekly review: an opportunity at the end of the week where you pause to review your previous week and then make any necessary changes to your plan as you move into the next week.
After you have created your development plan, let me leave you with one word of caution. Development plans are simple, but not easy. What makes a development plan powerful is your consistency each week.
Follow the steps above and create your development plan.
Share your plan with a trusted friend who will help hold you accountable.
Celebrate your successes weekly, monthly, and quarterly.