Workaholics Anonymous—A 12-Step Program of Recovery and Personal Transformation (Step 1)
In my last blog post (read here) I took a major step in making this my best year ever: I admitted that I’m a workaholic in need of intervention. I know many of you out there are like me—in constant motion but never quite able to move beyond relative success.
So, as promised, I’m going to share what I have learned from the super-achievers I’ve interviewed in SUCCESS over the past year. I’ve outlined 12 Steps for changing those behaviors that block our creative juices and stifle our potential. This week, we’re going to focus on putting a stop to the little things that keep us from achieving our big goals in life.
STEP 1: Make a STOP-Doing List
We all have our to-do lists, those sometimes endless tasks that we believe, when finished, will shoot us into the stratosphere of success. However, have you noticed that while you check some tasks off, the list keeps growing? Your work days get longer, your time with family dwindles, and you find that even though you are in constant motion, you’re really standing still.
Your personal transformation has to begin by recognizing the difference between the things that matter and lead you down the path to success and those that might be distracting you and limiting your potential achievement.
Pareto Principle, 80/20 Rule: 20 percent of your activity produces 80 percent of your income. Simply put, it means that you should spend 80 percent of your time on the 20 percent of your activities really responsible for driving your income.
I know the Pareto Principle principle well. In fact, people pay me to teach it to them. Yet I still am sucked into the 80 percent of the unproductive activities. Why? Because I’m an addict. I’m like a moth to a flame. I say to myself, “Oh, there is something small I can accomplish and get off my plate. Let me get involved in that!” But, that must stop!
As I went through my 2009 goal-planning exercise, I ADDED several major projects and heavyweight to-dos to my list. My dilemma became crystal clear. The only way I will have time for my big-idea projects is to stop doing the little stuff that completely consumes me all day, every day.
Separate the Majors from the Minors
If you log your activities hourly or look back over your calendar for the previous week, I’ll bet you spent major chunks of time on minor activities that resulted in minor achievements. We all do it. It’s called the “results by volume” approach. I know this because I am guilty of it.
The Pareto Principle is different from the being busy versus being productive debate—that’s Efficiency Training 101. This is a more urbane understanding of achievement. I’m always focused on being productive; I am relentless about it. I never waste time, and I’m always looking for ways to multitask and do more in the same amount of time. I even joke by saying I work in a 26/7 environment, where every day I have to figure out how to get two extra hours of work completed with time that doesn’t exist! Can you see my sickness?
There are many projects and initiatives we engage in that, if successful, still produce minor achievements. This is how we end up with less than the big triumphs we see others attain.
Here is the Key to STEP 1:
Distinguish between the major and minor projects, activities, commitments, responsibilities and initiatives. Then, STOP doing the minors. You will now have the time to focus your energy and creative thought process (remember my theme for the year: Do Less, Think More) on bigger and better things—the things that will produce the breakthrough results and victories you seek.
Now, looking back, every big-time CEO or super-achiever I have met has lived this principle. None of them would allow themselves to become mired in minor tasks; they give their time and attention only to major issues. They focus their organizations on major goals and initiatives and constantly say no to distracting, minor projects.
There’s an old axiom that now makes sense to me, “It is not what you do that determines the level of your success, but rather what you don’t do.” Keep that in mind as you review your to-do lists.
Accomplish More by Doing Less
So, to start on your road to recovery, make the following two lists now:
- List 10 projects, activities or commitments you are going to STOP doing.
- List the three most important projects or activities necessary to achieve your BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals). FOCUS on them.
Each day, don’t make a long list of minor to-dos; just write down the three major activities you want to achieve that day.
Ah, feeling better already? I know I am.
Here’s a way we can all support each other on this journey. In the comment section below, write three things you are going to STOP DOING in 2009. Later, I will organize and publish the Top 10—something that will be interesting and useful to us all.
Here are three of mine:
1. Stop checking e-mail all day. I will check e-mail only twice a day, ideally at 10:30 A.M. and 4 P.M.
2. Stop working on Saturday. Saturday will be my day to focus on my family and refuel.
3. Stop being the center of control. I will empower others to deliver and lead more.
Next Week – STEP 2. Stay the course with me. STEP 2 is a big one… and one that will help you further stay committed to STEP 1.
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