I can be easily distracted. I will go off on a tangent, especially if it seems to be a good thing to do. The problem with this is that there are so many opportunities. When I chase too many of them, I lose focus and clarity.
Many new opportunities arise when a child advances from one school to the next. Children naturally want to participate because it’s something new. If a parent doesn’t help their child choose wisely, they will pursue everything. And when they do, they may not have time to excel at anything.
It is better to go six inches wide and a mile deep than a mile wide and six inches deep. That is the difference between a generalist and specialist. A generalist is a jack of all trades. They’re pretty good at several things but the master nothing. A specialist finds a niche and becomes an expert in that field.
The world is full of generalists. The Internet makes that possible. Just do a simple Google search and you can know a little bit about anything. But that doesn’t make you an expert. You wouldn’t want your accountant to be educated by Google alone. Or your surgeon to be Wikipedia certified.
It’s like the difference between hunting with a shotgun or hunting with a rifle. Shotgun shells shoot wide but are only effective for small targets. You need a rifle to bring down big game.
Specialists get where they are because they focus on one thing. They have clarity of purpose.
In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey gives as Habit 1 “Begin with the end in mind.” This is no mistake. With no goal or destination, you’ll chase every shiny object that crosses your path. Having a goal that you focus on brings about clarity.
So how do you bring about clarity? Follow this nine-step process.
- Write down your goals in priority order. This helps you understand which goals are your most important.
- Categorize your to-do list by goal. For each item that you need to do, see how it aligns with one or more goals.
- Shuffle to the bottom. Any to-do list items that aren’t associated with a goal should go to the end of your list.
- Choose what you can do. On your to-do list, decide which items you do well and enjoy doing. These are the items that you need to do first.
- Choose what you would like to do. For the remaining items, decide which ones would be advantageous and interesting to learn.
- Delegate or eliminate the rest. Anything that remains on the list is lower priority. You may decide not to do them. Alternately, you might have someone else do them for you.
- Do the work. Once you’ve got your list, get busy. Tackle the to-do list from top to bottom.
- Identify the gaps. As you complete an item, decide what’s next for each goal. If it’s not already on the list, be sure to add it.
- Rinse and repeat. As new things come on the list and old things come off, go back through the process.
If you’ll follow this process, you will automatically find yourself working on what’s most important to achieve your highest priority goals. That’s clarity.
Application Question – Describe a situation when you had confidence and control. What made that situation different from those that make you feel stressed and worried? Do you actively manage and prioritize your task list?