The Sunday Mail
Hunt for Greatness
Some things matter, while others do not. Focus on the things that matter, knowing fully well that the things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least. Doing what matters will cause you to matter and be impossible to ignore. Unless priorities become daily practice, destiny remains elusive. When everything in your sphere of concern is a priority you likely have no priorities or you are in a deep crisis.
Strategy is all about setting priorities and the plans to deliver them. When you have no clear priorities you likely have no clear strategy that you are working with. If your strategy does not define clear priorities it is a mere wish list to satisfy egos and ticking of boxes.
Priorities help you define where you will play, how you will play and what meaning means. When you have no strategy you succumb to blame-fixing, finger-pointing and victim-thinking. You can never be significant when your vision is just based on protest, without clear priorities. Get your priorities right and you get your life right.
In years past the book, “Oliver Twist” by the great Charles Dickens, was an English Literature must-read. The central character, Oliver Twist, moves us when he timidly proclaims: “Please Sir, may I have some more?” It is this move that get Oliver Twist into trouble and his eventual fate in underground England. This cry for more and more and more is the common urging and desire in life. There is always this ever-present and unending cry for more and more and more and more. However, the key to greatness is learning to do more by doing less.
Prioritisation is the determination of rank and order, separating what must be done, from what must not be done. Prioritisation means going further to determine what must be done now, and what needs to be done later, or even done at all. Without a sense of prioritisation confusion is likely to rein rife. Learning how to put first things first, is a discipline in life and a first step towards greatness.
Force a Decision
Opportunity is everywhere and not seeing it that does not mean that it does not exist. The problem is never opportunity itself but prioritisation. Not every opportunity is worth taking or suited for you. It is not always easy to decide in a world full of glut, glamour, and greed. Strategy is forcing a priority decision that helps you evaluate which opportunities to seize and which ones to let go without regret.
Without clear priorities you are adrift and strategically inept. In the game of strategy, you have to choose to either disrupt or be the disrupted. Your priorities determine your strategic posture. However, the key to all strategy is to decide both what to do and what not to do. All strategy-making is a process decision to set and lean towards clear priorities.
It is placing a clear boundary on your activities and resources and choosing to be focused. There are many things to do but not everything can be done or done now. Make solid decisions; take big moves, and stake your efforts on your priority list as you stage your action.
Apply a “To Do” List
Working with priorities does not need to be complicated. You can start with a basic “To Do List”. Sometimes you need to start by drawing up two lists: a to do and not to do list. Compile, firstly, a Master List by looking through everything that needs to be done and putting it in your list. Then look through your big list and create a “to do” and a “not to do” list. The things on your “No to do” list could be delegated or perhaps may not even need to be done at all. Be aggressive with your time and your prioritisation.
Once you have written your “To Do” list, you can go ahead and rank order the actions into A,B,C tasks. A being urgent and mission critical activities. B being important activities and C, being things that would just need to be done at some point. Work more and more on your A items.
The Pareto Principle, is a way thinking and evaluating priorities named after the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto conducted several studies in which we observed that generally there is an uneven balance between causes and consequences. He noted that 80 percent of consequences came from 20 percent of the causes.
The Pareto Principle is also known commonly as the 80/20 Rule. What is important is to identify and assess the critical 20 percent of the activities that are responsibility for 80 percent of the outcomes. These are your priorities. Doing what matters, the critical 20 percent, results in results with impact and meaning.
This method forces prioritisation into four key quadrants, bounded by two key dimensions of Importance and Urgency. An issue or activity could be Important and Urgent, this is a crisis and it must be done now. It could be Important, and Not Urgent. Stephen Covey called this these, “Quadrant Two” activities. These are important activities that may not be crying for attention but necessary to do.
The other domain is: Not Important but Urgent. These are like a ringing phone and the constant surge of Social Media traffic. The last category is for things or activities that are Not Important and Not Urgent. These are simply time wasters. They are tension-relieving activities that are not tied to any destiny-delivering critical path.
Time wasters may not always advertise themselves as such. Learn to recognise them and eliminate them. Cross check issues and activities against your long term goals and visions. Most things that do not fit into your future squarely should be critically reviewed and where possible discarded.
Ivy Lee Method One disease of that feeds procrastination is consigning things to “tomorrow”. Some people always have too much tomorrow. Instead of extending themselves today and doing what they must do, they simply consign it to tomorrow.
In order to safely procrastinate and also priorities Ivy Lee’s advises that you focus on the six important things that you will do tomorrow. You write them out by their order of importance. The next day you start working on your most important item on the list. If anything is not done, you just add it onto the list of tomorrow’s activities but you only work on six critical things every day. Try it and let me know how that works for you.
Edgar Guest wrote a moving poem entitled: “Tomorrow” that gives a catalogue of tomorrow excuses to be avoided:
He was going to be all that a mortal could be . . . Tomorrow
None should be kinder or braver than he . . . Tomorrow
A friend who was troubled and weary he knew,
Who’d be glad of a lift and who needed it, too,
On him he would call to see what he could do . . . Tomorrow
Each morning he’d stack up the letters he’d write . . . Tomorrow
And he thought of the friends he would fill with delight . . . Tomorrow
It was too bad indeed; he was busy each day,
And hadn’t a minute to stop on his way;
“More time I’ll give to others,” he’d say . . .” Tomorrow
The greatest of workers this man would have been . . . Tomorrow
The world would have known him, had he ever seen . . . Tomorrow
But the fact is he died, and faded from view,
And all that he left here when living was through
Was a mountain of things he intended to do . . . Tomorrow.
Prioritise and you will fly, higher and higher. Fail to prioritise and you will never fly. Do less, in order to do more for more. You may have heard the statement, “less is more”. Whatever you do must speak to your priorities and be aligned to your magnificent obsession. Revisit your priorities often to check that you are still on course.
Committed to your greatness.
Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author, and growth mentor. He is a cutting-edge strategy, team-building and organisation development facilitator and consultant. His life purpose is to inspire and promote greatness. He can be reached at: [email protected] and Twitter: @MiltonKamwendo. His website is: www.miltonkamwendo.com.