A few weeks ago, my wife and I decided to clean out and organize our garage. The project took most of the day but the benefits were instant.
From a practical standpoint I could actually find tools and other equipment I use on a regular basis. From a physiological standpoint I felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I felt a sense of accomplishment and also gained some confidence (which always happens when you get a “win.”)
Life and leadership are similar. We have “clutter” that piles up and over time it can hinder our effectiveness, productivity, and ability to reach our leadership potential.
Today, let’s do some leadership spring cleaning or as Marie Kondo would say “tidying up.”
Here are a few areas to focus on…
Do you feel apathetic? Maybe lacking some passion? Life feels mundane? There’s a chance you have lost your “why.”
Your “why” is what author Simon Sinek calls your vision or purpose. It’s what gets you excited when you wake up in the morning and fuels your passion and energy.
The pressures and stresses of each day can, over time, make us lose sight of our “why.”
This is the first area we have to focus on in our leadership spring cleaning because our “why” comes before our effort. Inspiration precedes perspiration.
The best way I know how to rediscover our “why” is through the funeral experience. If you were to die 30 years from now, think about what you want people to say at your funeral. What words, phrases, and stories would you like them to share? Look at the themes that connect those stories and adjectives. That connection will help you to start seeing both your “why” as well as the high priority areas in your life.
Your “why” and priorities are what I like to call our desired culture.
Reevaluate Your Schedule
Once we have rediscovered our “why,” it’s time to see where our time is going.
In order to get an accurate view of your time, record your schedule for the next two weeks. (I know this sounds tedious, but it’s worth it.)
Once you’ve done that tracking, it’s time to compare our “why” and priorities with our actual schedule. Do they match?
I once heard a quote that says “We all have to accept the reality that how we live reflects what’s really important to us.” Our actions show our true priorities. Or, our actual culture.
This might be hard to swallow. But the way we get back on track is by closing the gap between our desired and actual culture. What changes do you need to make in your schedule to start living out your “why” and priorities?
Your Organizational Plan
Our leadership tidying up is not complete without some organization. According to a 2017 survey, we spend a total of 2.5 days a year looking for misplaced items, and replacing lost items costs Americans $2.7 billion each year. That’s a lot of time and money.
If we want to be effective leaders, we need to declutter our lives.
This is probably the most laborious step but, just like I felt a weight lifted off of me when I finished organizing my garage, I can guarantee you will feel a burden off of your shoulders as well when you finish.
How do you start? You need to identify all the inboxes in your life. An inbox is simply the avenue in which we receive information. Examples are: email, voicemail, text messages, your mailbox, etc.
Next, create a system of where each piece of information goes. As David Allen says in his book Getting Things Done, the best way to do this is to ask yourself if this item is “actionable?” If the answer is “yes,” it needs to go into your to-do list or task management system so you can complete the action.
If the answer is “no,” you need to file it or trash it.
Of course, you have to know where to file it. Without getting too into the weeds (because I can be a productivity geek), decide if you are going to keep hard copies in a filing cabinet or digital files. My filing system is a combination and I use Evernote for the digital ones.
When it comes to organizing your filing system, review the files you already have and start creating categories to group those files. Some systems have labels or tags to help you filter and search more efficiently. For example, you might have a work folder and a personal folder. In the work folder you might label files based upon projects or clients.
There is so much more we could talk about, but I think you at least get the basics. This may sound overwhelming to those who do not have an organizational gene, but I can guarantee you will feel much better once you know where things go. And your productivity will increase as you spend less time hunting for information.
Over the next month, choose 3 “half days” (maybe a Saturday morning), to conduct your leadership tidying up. Start with your “why”, move on to reevaluating your schedule, and finish up with creating your organizational plan.
PS: If you haven’t registered already, we’d love if you made plans to join us for the first (free!) webinar in our Summer Webinar Series, “The New-Norm Leader: 5 Skills For Socially Engaging in a Physically Distancing World.” You can register here to see the time options and claim your spot!