An ongoing topic in management and leadership literature is balance.  A challenge all business leaders face is finding ways to stay balanced and aligned in an environment of competing priorities and demands.  And in a world where disruptive technology and shared calendars are the norm, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain balance and alignment.

In a previous post we explored several tactics for protecting time and creating so called “white-space” to work on higher priority tasks.  But that will only take us so far.  When we start hitting our personal capacity limits it’s time to start saying “no”.  Jim Collins in his book Good To Great suggests that creating your “stop doing list” is more important than creating your “to-do list”.  But knowing what to say “no” to requires context.

Your measuring stick for what’s important

Within organizations, the ultimate measuring stick for setting priorities is the company vision which is made up of Core Purpose, Core Values and an Envisioned Future.  When trying to decide what is most important between multiple, competing projects or tasks ask youself:

  • Does this activity move us closer to our Envisioned Future?
  • How well does this action demonstrate our Core Values or Core Purpose?

A further refinement of this is possible where an organization’s strategic plan and role scorecards are aligned to the vision.  In that environment we can ask:

  • Is this action tied directly to a performance measure in my role scorecard?
  • Does this project or task support a strategic priority this quarter?
  • Can this activity move us closer to a target or key number?

The more times we can say “yes” to these questions, the higher the priority for the activity or project we are considering.

Personal vision and strategy

The concepts described above are also applicable outside of work.  Creating a personal vision statement that includes Core Values and Core Purpose can be insightful in itself, as well as providing an ongoing measuring stick for setting priorities day-to-day.

For years my family has had documented family values.  My children, who are all teenages now, can recite them from memory.  And in our weekly family meetings we continue to use our family values to guide decision making and nominate one another for living our core values.

Just last week, one of our nominations sounded like this.  “I want to nominate Mom for opening our home to out of town visitors last week.  That demonstrates our family value Welcoming.”

I was also recently introduced to the concept of a personal vision board.  This tool helped me clarify what my world would look like 10 years from today – the achievements that would have occurred, the relationships I would have, and what my daily routine would be.  It forced me to think through my ideal envisioned future.

Past, present and future

Clarity of vision and values, both professionally and personally, provides invaluable guidance looking into the future or backward to the past.  At any time I can audit my schedule to see if I am spending (or planning to spend) my time, energy and focus on things that support my vision and values.  If I am then I can feel confident that my life is aligned and focused.  If not, I can ask myself, “what needs to change?”

If you look back at your schedule over the past month, how well does it align to your values and vision?

Do you know someone who could benefit from better alignment of values and schedule?  Share this post with them!