Focus versus Dispersion-Whack A Mole in real life

I often talk about self-awareness and knowing yourself can go a long way toward success.  Even more, having experiences where you learn where your weak points are can help guard against making the same choices and mistakes again in the future.  My intent today is to share what can happen when you over-extend yourself versus maintaining focus.  Even more, I’ll share a simple model that can help you keep from getting spread too thin.

Any of us who have had children will remember the game Whack-A-Mole from times when we took our children to a game restaurant like Chuck E Cheese.  Whack A Mole can be funny, but it can also represent what life feels like when you get over extended.  Just when you think you have one thing taken care of, another will rise up and give you fits.  The game is fun when you are a child and there are no stakes involved.  Things change when the moles that pop up represent issues and projects we each choose to get involved in.  Here is where the self awareness piece comes in.

Some of us have a wide variety of interests and we choose to get involved in a variety of interests, sometimes too many, at one time.  When this occurs our life turns into a real-time version of Whack A Mole and we get frustrated, angry, fatigued and frustrated.  How can you keep this from occurring?

Part of self-awareness involves knowing your tendencies.  I will use myself as an example.  I like to get involved in many issues and by the time I figure out all that is involved I figure out that I have created my own version of Whack A Mole.  One of the things I have learned from coaching and assessment is that I have a high interest in involvement, something that can be represented by a “High I” in the DISC assessment.  Others who read this who have that High I may remember times when they too got overly involved in too many issues and couldn’t keep up with the moles in their life.

Stephen Covey came up with a simple model decades ago that is good to refer to.  This model is shown below:

The model breaks tasks into two categories, urgency versus importance.  Everything you get involved with should be viewed through the lens of importance and urgency.  You should spend the bulk of your time working in quadrant one with issues that are both urgent and important.  The real time challenges come when we spend time in quadrants 2, 3 and 4.  I often find myself spending time on issues that are urgent, but not important or Important, but not urgent.  We only have a fixed amount of time in each day and being able to qualify where a project or task resides can help you make better choices when opportunities present themselves.

Tired of your life being like Whack A Mole?  If this is you, take the time to list all that you are trying to do and then use the model above to help you better prioritize your time and effort.

What other methods have you used to make better use of your time?