Is the problem that there’s not enough time or is it not enough focus on what’s really important? After two decades of working tasks, issues, problems and challenges I contend that it’s the later: a lack of focus on what’s really important. Most of us get this, but if you’re working in an organization where someone else is setting your priorities and handing you the tasks/issues/problems, what do you do to get back to focusing on what’s really important? And why bother?
1. According to an American Psychological Association survey, released earlier this month, a third of the people they surveyed maintained chronic stress symptoms with women reporting higher levels of stress than men. Beyond this, 23% of the people they surveyed were dissatisfied with their work/life balance.
2. Based on an Opinion Matters survey completed for the Centre for Economics & Business Research in 2012, office workers spend an average of 4 hours per week in meetings…and they feel that more than half that time is wasted.
3. A 2009 study for the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that 70% of employees work beyond scheduled time and on weekends, citing “self imposed pressure” as the reason.
4. With the economic downturn in America increasing pressure on workers at every level, a 2010 study by TNS Research revealed that 30% felt the need to stay connected 24/7 to remain relevant and 48% felt they were required to do more work with fewer resources.
With all of this doom and gloom the likelihood of being able to focus on what’s really important seems to be irrelevant. But that’s wrong. If what the studies contend is true – too many meetings, too much work, too few people, too much easy connectivity – then the necessity to focus on what’s really important is critical.
Assess what you do. Is it relevant to your, or your company’s, success now or in the future? Is it an initiative, an opportunity, or a maintenance task (i.e. routine minutia)? The answers to this simple questions will tell you if the work you’re doing is relevant and therefore work you need to be spending time doing.
Beyond the hype of time management and Getting Things Done (GTD) tips and technology is the legitimate question of “for what purpose”. Don’t lie to yourself that you’re overworked, understaffed, or overwhelmed. There’s always enough time for what’s important. You just have to cut past the minutia to get to it.
Christian Knutson, P.E., PMP is a leader, civil engineer, and author. He’s an accomplished professional specializing in A/E/C work internationally and author of The Engineer Leader, a recognized blog on leadership and life success for engineers and professionals.
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