Choose to…

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

Last month in my post entitled Right Now, I talked about the critical importance of prioritizing what really matters and focusing on the task at hand. One’s health as well as success depends on it.

A reader emailed me with the following comment:

“Remembering to only focus on the one task at hand will certainly help me get all my tasks accomplished. And hopefully keep me out of the sick bay. Determining which task is the ‘task at hand’ is my biggest challenge.”

I can relate to his challenge and I bet you can too. It’s so easy to allow ourselves to be pulled in multiple directions at once and become distracted by the ones that are the loudest or most compelling.

The next morning I reflected on the question of how to determine the task at hand as I began my day. I decided to let my experience inform me hour by hour.

I knew the first three hours of the day would be easy, as I had an extended session scheduled with a client. It was work I love to do, and work that requires the kind of focus that forces one to block out distractions, compartmentalize other pressing to-do’s, and be fully present. Plus, I had made a commitment to do it.

After that meeting, I got to work on the other items I had promised myself or someone else that I would complete. Not everything on the list was as fulfilling as the work with my client, though each seemed as though they “had” to be done. I was reminded of a principle called Have-To versus Choose-To. It’s infinitely more empowering to choose than to be obligated.

Commitments drive our calendars. Most of us follow through, at least eventually, on what we say we’ll do. The nagging question though (the real question the reader asked) is: What drives our commitments?  What drives what we choose to do?

When we’re fully conscious and aware, some greater strategic picture of life – purpose, values, potential – drives our choices. When we’re not, it’s dangerously easy to become distracted and rationalize “busy” as productive.

In their new course “The 5 Choices,” time and productivity management experts at Franklin Covey say our attention is under attack. Their research shows that now more than ever we are reacting to distractions vs. choosing to spend our time on what’s important. In their extensive survey, people reported spending an average of 40% of their time on unimportant tasks.

I’ve written before of the need to allow inspired, creative thinking to drive our deepest desires before jumping to action. I believe there’s never been a better time to ask and answer the question, “What’s important?

After a day of observing myself, I was satisfied with the choices I made. But my project was skewed by the study itself. Awareness of the choices I made, coupled with focus on why I was making those choices was, for me, the success formula. I might be onto something…try it if you wish.

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