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Focusing on What Matters (and Ignoring What Does Not)

Focusing on What Matters (and Ignoring What Does Not)
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As I look back at this week’s postings on Slow Leadership, I notice that most of them were concerned with helping people stop wasting their time and energy on fruitless endeavors.

Take the first post, entitled: To Succeed, First Forget About Leadership Technique. In it, I argued that belief that success—in just about any business or leadership —comes from one simple source (applying the correct “leadership technique), is both self-serving and erroneous. It is self-serving because it is mostly spread by those who sell training in such techniques, or write about them; and erroneous because it is usually based on a false understanding of causality. Besides, because it does not work. Technique is a very minor part of leadership, as this posting seeks to show.

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Of course, most of what people believe, whether about work or anything else, is simply what they were encouraged to believe at an early age—augmented by what people around them believe (or say they do). The fear of being seen as “different,” of not “fitting in,” encourages a great many mistakes and considerable heartache. Now I am retired, it is far easier for me to maintain an independent position. When I was employed in various large organizations, I was almost as willing as everyone else to suppress my own thinking in favor of appearing suitably orthodox. I say “almost as willing,” because I always had a reputation for being awkward and not quite fitting in, which doubtless held my career back at some points. That is why I warmed to the idea that The Wonder of Letting Go might help people lessen much of the stress and turmoil in their lives. As I wrote:

The first step in making life and work fun again is the —and the —for may people. It is to let go of whatever you have today and move into the future. And what you will most likely find is that many of the things you were clinging to so desperately turn out to be no loss; and some of the best of them bob along with you anyway. You don’t need to cling to them. They are part of who you are.

Encouraging employees to use their intelligence is still an unusual idea, but it too can help people focus on what matters and ignore what does not. In Why Not Let People Use Their Intelligence?, I suggested that companies who recruit smart people, then deny them the chance to use their intelligence, for whatever reason, are purposely throwing away large amounts of shareholders’ money and should be treated appropriately. Not a very radical idea, it seems to me, but certainly an unfamiliar one.

One or two people had difficulties in grasping the difference I suggested between business problems and business predicaments in my article: Problems, Predicaments and Sleight of Hand. I can best sum it up like this.

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  • Problems have solutions, even if you don’t presently know what they are. For example, asking how to get a certain level of shipments to a customer in a given time period at the lowest possible price is a problem.
  • Predicaments have no solutions, and never will have. An example of a predicament (with no solution that is either possible or that will remain useful for very long) would be how to maintain a consistent level of market share at or above 12%. It’s a predicament because whatever action you take to make it happen will prompt counter action from others to thwart you; and the market circumstances are constantly changing anyway.

I suggested, therefore, that all the most important issues in business are actually predicaments. To treat them as problems and apply supposed solutions is to be doomed to consistent failure and frustration.

Many of our difficulties in the workplace are self-inflicted, and arise primarily because we do not devote either the time or the energy required to think about them clearly enough. Hamburger Management, with its emphasis on quick action, simple answers, and continual cost-cutting merely magnifies that human tendency. Only by slowing down and using our minds can we finally sort out what matters from everything else. And once we do that, we will, I believe, be surprised at how much time we previously devoted to nonsensical activities.

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Focusing only on what matters is the first, most essential step in creating enough space in your working day to allow you to create a civilized way of working. And it goes far beyond removing minor distractions. To focus on what matters, you must first decide what that is. That is why maintaining an open, independent mind is so important. Don’t be taken in by what most people do, unless you have first verified for yourself that it is sensible and necessary. After all, most people follow the crowd— and that is often a poor choice for having a life that is better than most.

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Last Updated on July 12, 2021

Lifehack Reviews: 50 Best Life Hacks for Your Life

Lifehack Reviews: 50 Best Life Hacks for Your Life
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Do you want to be as productive as many of us, but missed a lot of actions at lifehack.org during the year? We’ve selected the best 50 life hacks, based on their popularity and contents in different categories. Invest your time – read them. Bookmark this page and mark reading them as one of your new year resolutions.

Communication, Writing, Studying

  1. My Best Presentation Tricks
  2. The Business Card Game
  3. Persuasive Writing for Students, Webmasters, Bloggers, and Everyone Else
  4. 7 tips of handling your Emails without feeling overwhelmed
  5. Writing as a Form of Self Healing
  6. Advice for students: Writing by hand
  7. Yes, But Do People Like You?
  8. Writing – Just do it!
  9. A good place to study
  10. Blog your way through Writer’s Block
  11. 14 Tips for Communicating Ideas

Productivity, Creativity, Motivation

  1. 9 Top Secrets of Naturally Born Organizers
  2. Fight The Flab!
  3. More Fight The Flab!
  4. Limit Creativity, Get Innovation
  5. Precious Moments
  6. 5 Ways to Improve Your Productivity in the Office
  7. A Geek’s Best Lifehack
  8. What Kind of Paranoid Are You?
  9. Being A Creative
  10. There’s No Time!
  11. The Mysteries Behind Motivation and How To Manipulate Them
  12. Time Management: Handling Disruptions in Daily Schedules
  13. Productivity Hack: Write Mini Process Flows
  14. Design an Online Workflow

Management, Self-Management, Entrepreneurship

  1. Bare Bones Project Hacks
  2. The 10 Beliefs of Great Managers
  3. The Simplest Path to Success
  4. Letting Things Go
  5. Closet Entrepreneur
  6. Time To Discard The Portmanteau
  7. 5 Important Keys to Bootstrap Your Entrepreneurship
  8. The Most Underutilized Tool for Effective Communication
  9. Everyday Performance Reviews
  10. Meetings, @&!!$*@ Meetings!
  11. What Are You Worried About?
  12. How to Ruin Your Career In Five Easy Steps

Procrastination, Goal Settings, Life

  1. 9 Steps to Define your Goal Destination and Devise a Plan to Get There
  2. Pro-Active Steps to Prevent Procrastination
  3. Improve Your Life By Following A Schedule
  4. The Causes of Procrastination And How To Conquer Them
  5. How To Make Resolutions You’ll Keep
  6. Literal Life Hack: Cut your window of time in half
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Are there any lifehacks that you’ve learned over the past year?

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Featured photo credit: Rainier Ridao via unsplash.com

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