Box of Crayons Blog


How to Focus on What Matters

Hands up of us who don’t feel a little over-connected, over-committed and overwhelmed?

Wherever I go, whenever I train groups of people, not one person has yet to say to me, “I’ve got too much Great Work. I’m overloaded with meaningful, engaging work that really makes a difference.”

Let’s face it, at best we’re staying on top of our to-do list and churning out email replies. Yes, the sad truth is that most of us are mired in a mix of Bad Work and Good Work. We’re working just to keep working.

The exciting stuff, the work that really propels our careers or impacts our organization, the Great Work we want to do lies tantalizingly outside of our grasp. You need three core things to do more Great Work:

Focus – Whether it’s an organization or an individual, there must be perfect clarity on what matters, and clarity on where are the opportunities for Great Work.

Courage – There must be willingness to start your Great Work even though it’s more comfortable and familiar to stick with your Good Work. Heads up: Great Work is a counter-cultural act. Your palms will sweat and there may be butterflies, but it’s worth it.

Resilience – What are you going to do when things get uncomfortable? Keep going. That’s right.

Make no mistake: Great Work can be a difficult place to be.

The temptation to downgrade to the comfort of Good Work is constant – to go back to the work we’ve been hired to do, that ticks off your job description boxes.

Our workplaces are rampant with overwhelm, so how do we keep the momentum trifecta of Focus, Courage and Resilience going? By simplifying our lives.

Start by saying no.

Nothing gets in the way of doing more Great Work than the need to say Yes. The challenge is not in the No. It’s in the default Yes. What if your goal was to start saying Yes just a little more slowly? Ask some questions. Get them to be specific about what they want. Get specific about what you can give. And see where that takes you.

How are you simplifying your work life so you can do the work that matters?

(PS: I invite HR and Learning and Development professionals to check out our Coaching Skills for Managers programs that help leaders focus their teams and cut through the daily grind clutter.)

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