Posts Tagged ‘Decision Making’

Don't Lose SightTwo months ago I wrote down the three words that serve as this post’s title: Don’t Lose Sight.  I do things like that occasionally when a random thought comes to mind that might serve as the basis for a future blog post.  Then I let it simmer for as long as necessary until it’s fully cooked in my mind and it’s time to pull it out of the oven.  This one has simmered long enough.

Unless you are in the most simple and casual of environments and lifestyles, chances are fairly good that you have many things clamoring for your attention.  Between work, family, other relationships, basic survival, education, entertainment, hopes, volunteerism, taking care of material possessions, discovering and living out one’s perceived purpose in life, and who knows what else, most of us do not lack for ways to invest the 24 hours we are given daily.  In fact, many are challenged to decide what doesn’t get done on a long to-do list.  What are the mandatory tasks versus items that will have to remain on the wish list?

When so many competing tasks vie for our attention, it is frighteningly easy to get distracted and off course.  It is simple to lose sight of the goal, of those things which are most important, and to wander off in some other attractive direction until we look up one day and realize we are no longer remotely close to heading in the direction we set out to follow.

When I consider the competing opportunities for involvement in my life, I am on one hand blessed to have so many interests and opportunities and ways that bring joy and gladness.  On the other hand, there are more of those available than time and physical limitations allow, so I must constantly prioritize and say “no” to some things that I’d really like to do.

The biggest single consumer of my time is my work, understandably, and that won’t change.  Still, I strive to limit it to the 50+ hours per week I average, even though there is always much more to do.  I set ambitious goals at the start of the year about reading and blogging and exercise and living out my faith – goals that at a high level exist to strike a healthy balance between body, mind and spirit.  Here at the mid-February point, I’m a little behind in some of those goals, so the challenge is not to stress about them, but to bite off daily what is reasonable and carry on without such goals becoming a burden that weighs me down and has the opposite effect from what is intended.  At least I know the answer should someone ask me to take on more right now: the answer is a resounding “no” until something else comes off my calendar.

Being busy does not guarantee that one is doing things that are meaningful and worthwhile.  Being busy may impress some onlookers, but it probably doesn’t impress the family member who feels neglected, the coworkers who aren’t seeing the results needed for the team, the neighbors or friends or passersby who feel invisible due to your lack of acknowledgement and attention, those in your community of faith who see you burning a candle at both ends but who don’t see much lasting light and warmth from your efforts, or the God who gave us life and is waiting for the time, worship and attention He deserves.

Being busy is tiring.  It is wrong to equate busyness with fulfillment or effectiveness.  It is better to do a few things really well than to do a mediocre job on many tasks.  It takes discipline and guts and wisdom to learn to say “no” to some things so that you can say “yes” to the most important ones, and do them well.  That is an ongoing learning experience for me that I don’t expect to master once and for all this side of heaven.

So what do I need to do?  I need to think daily about what is most important – not just what appears to be urgent.  I need to remind myself of my core values and principles and act accordingly.  I need to take positive action daily to live out those priorities and be willing to say “no” to opportunities that would be a distraction, be they pleasant and desirable or not.  I need to keep focused on the primary goal, on the prize.  Perhaps the same is true for you as well.

Don’t lose sight.

Blind JusticeVery few days go by without someone complaining to me about something happening in our company’s internal social network.  Usually it’s about a specific discussion that someone takes offense at or because they think a rule or two have been broken that requires my intervention as community manager.  That goes with the territory of managing a community of 23,000 people that posts over 1,000 messages a day.  Given the activity level, the number of complaints is remarkably low.

An interesting phenomenon of late, however, is the complaint that suggests I don’t moderate political discussions fairly – that I allow people on the left (or on the right) to get away with more than the other side.  The funny part of that complaint is that I hear it from both sides.  The fact that both sides complain tells me I’m being as fair as I know how to be.

While there is some subjectivity to moderating online communities, there are also specific rules in place that I have communicated and that I follow.  The clear-cut rules when broken are the easy ones to enforce.  It’s the more subjective guideline such as showing respect to fellow employees that is up to interpretation and more challenging to enforce.  These are also the ones where people are more likely to disagree with my decisions.

I have no fantasy and no goal of trying to please everyone.  My goal is to do what I think is in the best interests of the community and the business.  As was mentioned by my manager earlier today at a team get-together, you have to develop a pretty thick skin as a community manager given all that comes at you.

If you are in a role that occasionally requires you to make a judgment between sides, then you know the situation I’m in.  Heck, even a parent of two kids knows that situation, much less anyone in a work-related role that calls for mediation between two parties.  As challenging as the role may be at times, there is some comfort in leap year lesson #355: You’re likely being fair if both sides accuse you of favoritism.

Say Yes To Saying NoThis weekend is the annual big event at my church where we have our Christmas program repeated multiple times from Friday evening through Saturday afternoon.  While four performances is significant, it is nowhere near the time commitment of some previous years when under different leadership and with a different focus we had as many as 20+ performances spread over a couple of weeks.  That previous pace was killer for those involved and came not-so-affectionately to be known as “The Tree That Ate Christmas.”  The current schedule is still demanding for those involved, but doesn’t leave one completely exhausted, so kudos to the current music leadership for changes in the right direction.

While I have only been among the choir or on-stage participants for this event a few years over the last 25+, all of the other years I have served in some capacity, usually on the tech crew where I operated a spotlight or TV camera.  I think my favorite place of service has been on a spotlight because it gives me the chance to climb up to the top of scaffolding near the rafters of this giant, gorgeous old sanctuary and get a bird’s eye view of it all.

This year, however, I said no when asked to help out.  That felt odd because I haven’t said that for this event in over a quarter of a century.  The reasons for my answer are not the purpose of this post, so I’ll pass on explaining why.  The fact that I lived through saying no is the point.

Some always say yes to requests because they want to satisfy others, or they don’t want to disappoint anyone, or they feel obligated, or they fear what might happen if they say no, or they feel like they are only valuable as a person if they are constantly busy, or perhaps a myriad of other reasons.  It’s important, though, to know your limits and to know what is healthy and what is not, and to say no when it seems like the best thing to do, even if it is something you have said yes to many times before.

Leap year lesson #341 is Say “yes” to saying “no.”

While it’s been a few years since I’ve run a race, it is common for me to be inspired by the sight of the finish line and to turn up the speed for that last little stretch knowing that the race is almost over.  In the longest races I’ve run – half marathons – I have tried to pace myself throughout but usually notice a slowing down around the 11-mile point after which I just have to grind it out to the end.  Even in those races, however, there is a burst of energy possible after rounding that last turn and seeing the finish line.  I want to shave a few more seconds off that final time.

The longer we live the more we realize that we stumble along the way.  When that happens, we may be tempted to spend our time looking back at that stumbling point bemoaning the fact that it happened, blaming it as a reason for not progressing much from that point.  A far better response, however, is to recognize that we may not be able to erase the fact that we stumbled or eliminate its immediate consequences, but we can take stock of where we are currently and determine to finish as well as we can, keeping our eyes on the goal before us.

Whether you have stumbled in business, relationships, finances, character, behavior, work, faith or anything else, you do not have to spend the remainder of your days looking back at the stumbling points bemoaning them.  It is possible to take stock of the new reality, to make decisions and carry out actions that will result in better consequences down the road, and to make the most of the time you have remaining.

To borrow a simple phrase from the movie Courageous, leap year lesson #300 is Finish well.

The speed of business can be lightening fast.  You cannot always afford to take all the time you want to make the decisions you must make.  Sometimes you have to take the info you have on hand and make a call – for good or bad – and move on.

There are times, however, when you are better off delaying plans a bit (if you must) in order to make the right decision.  Today was one such occasion.

Our team received an email mid-afternoon from an agency we work with frequently.  It was regarding artistic designs and text copy needing our approval for a social media campaign our department is planning.  The email indicated that final approval of the copy was needed by the end of business today – only a couple of hours following the receipt of the email.

As we looked over the copy and discussed it, we all had several questions and were definitely not ready to give approval.  We made the decision to set aside some time tomorrow morning to get together and discuss it in order to make the best decision.  This may or may not mean the dates of the original campaign will have to be moved back a bit, but that’s OK.  We know that it is far more important to do this well than to do it quickly.

That is a lesson I have seen businesses fail to learn way too often, perennially going for the quick decisions to push things out the door rather than the right decisions to do quality work the first time.  I’m confident we’ll feel a lot better about our decision after tomorrow’s meeting than any of us would have under an unexpected rush today.  In this case, 24 hours and pondering the decision overnight will boost our confidence and better guarantee success of the campaign.

Leap year lesson #268 is Don’t rush into the wrong decision.