If you've ever been curious what my life is like then come over for an evening at my house.
As you walk into our calm and peaceful home, I greet you at the door and lead you to our clean and immaculately set kitchen table.
My kids are sitting quietly, napkins on laps, patiently waiting for their turn to share about their day. Each of them respectfully listens to their brothers share and then asks insightful, probing questions, making it evident how much they care about each other--not!
That's fantasy land.
When you walk in the first thing that you'll notice in the real world is the noise. My god, the noise. How can three boys be so loud?
You'll see my wife Heather telling me about a Cub Scout activity we need to attend that weekend, while my youngest son, Joshua, is trying to get my attention by throwing Cheerios at my head.
My son Adam is yelling, "Listen!" while his twin brother Matthew is poking me and thrusting his iPad in my face, hoping that in the chaos and confusion I'll reflexively put the pin code in so he can get extra screen time to play Minecraft.
My point with sharing this (besides the fact that I know that you can relate) is that the strategy of waiting for my family to spontaneously show self-restraint and transform into a well-organized, smoothly flowing machine is doomed to fail.
Of course you know this, because chances are your home is very similar.
But why then do so many business leaders behave as if they can just passively wait for their current wave of demands, fires, and tasks to pass so that they magically will be left with some time, space, and quiet to get to those important projects they've been meaning to work on.
I know at times I've been guilty of just this sort of fantasy thinking - just falling into the rush of a hectic week, leaving me at the end with a sense that while I did a lot of "stuff", I just never got to my highest value work.
Feel familiar to you?
In your company, just like in my company, this current wave of immediate needs will be followed by another, and another, and another. Tomorrow will be just as overfull and stressful as today unless you embrace what I call the Value Economy and make different choices.
If you want to create a space to work on your most important projects, you've got to actively make this happen.
Here's How To Make It a Reality....
Step 1: Set Up Focus Time
At a minimum - setting aside a few blocks of uninterrupted "focus time" each week to invest in your highest value creation work.
If you can't regularly reclaim two, four, or six hours of your week in one- to three-hour blocks to do the high-value work you're really on the payroll to do, then all the movement and frenzied activity of responding to requests and processing your inbox is just a sham.
Step 2: Get A Handle On Time Vs. Value
Somehow we have fooled ourselves into thinking that if we only work harder, longer, faster, that we can work our way out of the hole. But that's like someone stuck at the bottom of a deep pit shoveling away. When you ask them how they plan on getting out, they shout up, "I'll just dig faster!" Doing so won't make my home suddenly peaceful, and it's not going to suddenly make your business more productive.
Step 3: Develop Systems
While you can't control the chaos, you can put systems and controls in place to help things run smoother and you should involve your entire team in the process.
The more you let your team help cook the meal, the more they will be willing to eat after.
If you want your team to buy into using systems, give them a real voice in their creation. Where possible, get your team to be the ones who create the systems for your company. This may require you get them outside training on what it means to create a system-so do it.
Here's to many more nights of calm and peaceful dinners (or at the very least controlled chaos.)