I’ve been investing a lot of time and energy on personal growth. It’s hard work. It’s revealed some tough, ugly truths.   One of those truths is that I don’t like to spend a lot of time thinking and planning. I like to get stuff done. Thinking and planning feels like a waste of time. The problem is that I struggle with developing long-term strategies. Because I don’t make the time to reflect, I run the risk of focusing on the wrong things. I’m starting to see this character trait, both in myself and in some of the leaders I come in contact with.

Let’s face it – we’re all busy. There’s always more to do than time to do it. Technology allows us to be “on” 24/7 if we’re not careful. In my case, I found that I resisted reflecting and planning because they aren’t immediately productive. It’s much more fulfilling to keep moving at lightning speed knocking things off my “to do” list. I fell into the trap of believing that if I just sit around thinking, work will pile up and I’ll feel even more behind than I already do.

I only began recognizing the value in reflecting and thinking long-term after experiencing some painful consequences:

  • Distraction –I was focusing on quantity over quality. Sure, I had the satisfaction of marking off tasks, but those tasks weren’t really moving the needle when it came to business goals or my development as a leader. I was just running around – like everyone else – looking busy because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Right???
  • Exhaustion – Even though I could clearly see that the tasks I was doing weren’t making a huge impact, I got stuck in the belief that I just needed to do more of them and then I’d notice the breakthrough. So that led to pushing and striving even harder. This quickly took me down the road of frustration, irritability, and exhaustion.
  • Stagnation – It wasn’t until I hit the point of exhaustion that I took a look around and realized I’d been running on the hamster wheel for too long. I’d expended a tremendous amount of energy and gotten nowhere. My business goals weren’t being achieved, and I was stuck.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve gone through this cycle. Fortunately, I’m starting to wake up and realize this is an opportunity for me to develop vertically. Clearly, this is a pattern where what I’ve done in the past no longer serves me. Introspection is required. I have to acknowledge hard truths. Now I’ve got to courageously make the necessary changes. These are the hardest lessons.

Reflecting on my past pattern, I see that asking critical questions along the way saves me a ton of time and energy.

  • Are these activities the best use of my time?
  • What are the specific results I’m getting from these actions?
  • Are these the results I want?
  • If not, what do I need to change?
  • Who can I reach out to for additional perspective or support?

In the past, I sacrificed wisdom I could have gleaned from such questions at the altar of doing. On the surface I looked busy, but I was only spinning my wheels. Now it’s time to head in a different direction. I must be intentional about slowing down. That’s not easy! Change is best accomplished in community, so those of you who interact with me on a regular basis, I ask for your assistance. If you see me running around like a crazy woman, feel free to ask me if I’ve thought about what I’m doing lately.   :)

6 Comments

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  1. Great post Alyssa! On home office days (especially) I sometimes find myself cycling thru a few types of low-priority (quantity) tasks. Thinning and re-thinning the inbox is a dead giveaway, for example. When that happens, I walk away for a bit to recharge and don’t come back until I’m ready to tackle a higher value task. Sometimes not until the next day.

    • Excellent self-awareness Rick! I love it. That’s a very practical cue to pay attention to. I’m still reviewing mine so I can “catch” that pattern more quickly. Your example definitely is one for me to pay attention to.

  2. AlLyssa, I can SO identify with you as a RED Usual behavior. Making sure I am doing the RIGHT things and not just the NEXT thing is always a challenge. I intend to share your article with some of my coaching clients who can fall into the same trap. Thanks for a thoughtful post; it is much appreciated.

    • Patti! It’s so lovely to hear from you. Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad my mess can be helpful to others. ;)

  3. Sherri Brown

    Thank you Alyssa. Experiencing a great deal of change right now professionally and this is something that is very helpful. Appreciate you sharing!