When life is especially hectic – as it generally is during the holiday season – we can quickly feel pulled apart by competing demands in our work and personal lives. Year-end priorities at work require attention, yet there are also holiday parties to attend, family time is even more important than usual, and special events require extra time for shopping and preparation.
It’s no wonder we can feel sucked under by all the details, spinning between one last-minute deadline and another. What we most need to do when we start spinning like that is something that can feel both difficult and counter-intuitive.
We need to stop.
Stop spinning. Stop rushing. Stop dashing from one thing to the next, like the circus performer desperately keeping his plates in motion on top of all those long poles. Stop and ask yourself: what’s most important in this moment? And how do you know where you are relative to that goal?
Whether you’re planning your company holiday party (or your own personal party) or setting goals for corporate achievement in 2013, knowing what’s most important, why it’s most important, and where you are right now relative to the vision you’re striving for will help keep you and your team alert and focused.
Start by clarifying the vision
What’s most important? Whether you’re just trying to get through the day, or you’re setting big goals for your team, being clear about what’s most important is crucial.
It’s easy to get distracted by details, especially when everything seems to be happening at once. Whatever seems most urgent in the immediate moment will tend to be what you pay attention to when you’re overwhelmed.
But urgent doesn’t always equal important. And that’s why it’s essential to be clear about your goals.
Understand the current reality
You may know that you want to go to Paris for New Year’s, but it’s hard to accomplish that goal if you don’t know where your journey begins. Your travel plans will be rather different depending on whether you’re setting out from Boston or San Diego!
Understanding the current reality means knowing what measurements are truly relevant, and then being sure that those measurements are an accurate reflection of how things actually are.
Sometimes your starting point can be difficult to determine, and sometimes you’ll encounter resistance to facing the reality of the current situation. Nonetheless, if you’re going to be successful in getting to Paris from Boston on time for that New Year’s party, you have to face the fact that you’re starting out from New England in midwinter … even if you’d prefer to be in sunny San Diego!
Track progress towards the goal (and adjust as necessary)
Tracking progress is simply re-assessing reality as it changes during your journey from your starting point to your destination. But to achieve real success, you need to do more than just measure the changing landscape. Real success comes when every person involved understands and is actively monitoring the metrics and recognizes their personal ability to impact success.
That’s because when you see the current reality and you know the ways in which you can affect what’s happening, you’re motivated to take action that will increase momentum towards the goal. Positive reinforcement comes when the metrics change to reflect the cumulative effort of everyone on the team. And when everyone monitors the measurements on a regular basis, they can respond with quick corrective action the moment things appear to be drifting off course.
So there’s the real secret to staying focused, even in the midst of the hectic busy-ness of the holiday season – or at any other time of the year:
– Clarify the vision: what’s most important?
– Understand your current reality relative to the vision.
– Track progress towards your goal (and adjust as necessary).
Recommended Training Resource: The Dashboard describes how one already-successful company met the challenge of becoming even better at what they do. Using a measure what matters approach, combined with ensuring that every single employee (not just the managers or senior leaders) understood and tracked the metrics day by day, they were able to achieve dramatic results.