Where do babies come from? It’s a question that few want to hear from a four year-old. Often , the hope is that a response like, “From mommy’s tummy” is all that’s necessary to deflect the curious mind of a child.
We know the question will come again, eventually followed by the question behind the question: “But how did it get there?” At least for the moment, though, we are hopeful we can avoid the topic.
So let’s ask another simple question. Where do “To Do” lists come from? The simple answer: “From my head.” But the onerous question behind the question is, “But how did it get there?” How can you be sure these are the important things?
This is more challenging. And like the baby question, we sometimes hope this question will go away for a while longer.
It’s easy to make a list of “next things.” And it’s likely that these next things are important, even urgent. But it’s easy to get lost when we look constantly at our feet – doing the next thing – without re-considering the original “gestation” of our goals. Without this reflection, steps like these will often lead us to the wrong destination.
The more challenging question is one we often wish would go away. It answers the question about why these particular items are important in the long run. It demands to know where the next step, our little baby, came from in the first place.
Here’s a 10 minute exercise that will help you to regain your focus and keep your steps on the right path: I call it “The 10/3 Exercise.”
- Put away your To-Do list so it’s not a distraction.
- On a tablet, write out the first thoughts that come to mind when asking, “What are the most important purposes of my job right now?” Scribble down no more than 10.
- Choose the three most important.
- Follow this process again, listing no more than 10 of the most important results you want from each of these three.
- Prioritize and select the three most important items.
- Now make a list of no more than 10 most important next actions you could take for each of these.
- Prioritize and select the top three for each topic.
You should now have a list of fifteen items that need your primary focus.
The 10/3 Exercise is a great fill-in to employ once every few weeks. Use it between larger strategy sessions during which you set the bigger goals.
Don’t be one of the many who simply keep busy, doing the next thing. Make your busy-ness count and ask the question behind the question. Be pregnant with anticipation to discover where your babies come from.