by Matt McKee
It’s an easy excuse that we all use too much, “I don’t have time for that.” The reality is that you may not have time for that but more likely the real answers are something closer to:
- I don’t want to do that.
- That is not a priority.
- That is not worth my time.
- If I did that then people might think differently of me.
- That scares me.
What if instead of saying, “I don’t have time for that,” we said, “That doesn’t fit what I am trying to accomplish.” This could speak to every aspect of your day—but be careful if you say that to your boss. Make sure that what you are trying to accomplish fits with what your organization wants you to accomplish.
How do you define what you are trying to accomplish, though? How do you determine if you are being productive? How do you really know if you are accomplishing anything? These are the real questions.
One of my favorite quotes about productivity and accomplishment is by Henry David Thoreau where he said: “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
Here is an activity that I go through to help me define my productivity, and I think you should go through it as well.
First, write down everything you have to do. If you did not do these things then you would not get paid, you would not have a place to live, you would not eat, etc. This list could be long if you tried to focus on every aspect of your life. Instead pick one aspect at a time. For instance, for my job I have to. . . .
Next, write down everything you should do. These are the things that are not mission critical but support the mission. For instance, you may not get fired if you don’t put together a training program for your volunteers but you know you should. Don’t get crazy with this list either. Don’t write down that you should read 25 books this year if you did not read two books last year. The idea here is to write down the things that you should do that you could accomplish.
Next, write down all the things that you wish you could do if budget and time were not an issue. This is your dream list. This is the list that if someone walked into your office and said I found $5000 in my budget and I want you to make a difference with it but I need to know what you would do with it within the hour. Not that it will happen that way but we all dream. Really dream here.
Finally, write down all the things that you should not do. Meaning, right now you are doing a lot of things that might not fit into the have to, should, or even dream about categories. Until you identify those things, then you will continue to do those things even though someone else or no one else should be doing them.
Now that you have all four lists make sure that you agree with where those activities are placed. If you did this for your family then ask your spouse, your mom, or a loved one if they agree with you. If you did this for work then ask your boss or even those that you manage if they agree. I know this sounds scary but you can do it. The real reason is not so that everyone can be in agreement but so that others can see what you are trying to accomplish.
So the next time you are about to say, “I don’t have time for that,” instead try saying, “That doesn’t fit what I am trying to accomplish.”