Part 3 of the Equation: Recognized Potential + Personal Conviction – Unnecessary Interferences = Purposed Performer

“Hey, got a minute?”

If you have ever had any type of job at all, you have heard this. From a hotel bartender to a corporate VP. Someone rolls up on you and asks for a minute of your time to go over something.

But it’s never a minute.

It’s usually 5 — but sometimes it’s 35.

We’ve all seen this drill.

In fact, this drill has huge economic impact: unnecessary interferences stemming from Qs like “Hey, got a minute?” cost the U.S. economy $588B per year. Yes, 588 billion with a B. For context, Google’s 2017 revenue was $110B. So unnecessary interferences are costing the U.S. economy about five Googles worth of money.

Why does this happen?

A partial list:

  • Workplaces aren’t often driven by priority. So each new thing people are working on can feel like a priority. Therefore, they feel they need to check in with you often, causing unnecessary interferences.
  • Attention spans have been declining for years
  • Some people don’t know how to have a succinct, business-driven conversation (i.e. perhaps they never mastered “the elevator pitch” concept)
  • Sometimes people are doing it to procrastinate on their own work, but hindering your work in the process

So, if these interferences are unnecessary, the question is “How do we keep them out of our way?”

This answer is in two parts: ‘broader level strategic’ and ‘specifically tactical’ .

Strategic:

Be purposeful about what you are working on and what needs to be done that day. There are lots of different approaches here, but the sheer reality is that most people are capable of achieving 3-5 major things in a work day. Look at what’s on your plate. Look at family and friends too; perhaps on a given Tuesday, something from those areas needs to rise to No. 1. Determine the 3-5 big things you need to do that day and then work purposefully and directly on doing those things. If you can establish consistency around this practice, you’ll get to the end of most weeks feeling extremely fulfilled. You might have a to-do list with some task work still on it, yes. But you’ll feel fulfilled and purposeful about what you did that week, both personally and professionally, and there’s literally no better feeling than that.

Tactical:

Schedule uninterrupted work time on your calendar. Calendars are sacred to many in white-collar workers; if they see a block on your calendar, they won’t schedule over it (unless they outrank you in a hierarchy, in which case they might try to). If you simply block three hours on a Wednesday to focus on those things you really want to focus on, and don’t let anyone intrude on those three hours, you’ll crush unnecessary interferences and get forward-driven, purposeful work done. (Don’t use your three hours on administrative work, please. Administrative work can wait or, better yet, be automated to technology or outsourced.) A similar idea is “The Focus Day,” whereby you block an entire day for projects of importance. Just go to a coffee shop no one knows and hide out working on what matters. Who’s going to come up on you there asking for a quick minute?


Side Note for Entrepreneurs and Owners:

Fridays should be spent recapping their week — what worked, what didn’t — and setting up their next week. Trying to work on Fridays in terms of task-achievement or big meetings is usually complete folly. Use it to recap and focus on what’s coming next. Set your priorities for the next week by Friday at 1pm. If they change over the weekend, we can adjust Monday morning.

The Bottom Line

You start everything by being purposeful about what matters. Then you design the tactics of your days and weeks to make sure those elements are achieved first, and the rest is outsourced. Work on what matters to you and your organization. Do those things and you’ll be a Purposed Performer instead of a member of the rat race.

Postscript

We just talked about removing unnecessary interferences. However, we all know that life is marked by interferences that are truly out of our control. The market changes, we lose a big account, someone gets sick or worse yet dies, the company downsizes and you lose your job. These interferences can’t be delegated away but they can be dealt with purposely. Unnecessary and necessary interferences go together in this way. By removing the unnecessary ones, you have created the margin and space that you need to adequately deal with the necessary one.  It won’t make them any easier, but it will place you in a position to make good choices.