focusI’ve had a really great year. For those that know me that might be surprising given all the turmoil and change I’ve faced over the past 13 months, but let me assure you it’s absolutely true. Despite all the changes and challenges I’ve experienced one of the most rewarding years of my life, and I believe that outcome is exactly because of the challenges I was asked to face.

Too often as we cruise through our lives, adding new responsibilities through promotion at work or through the growth of our families at home, we unconsciously continue to add to our load without consideration for our own capacity. When we take on a new role we seldom jetison all of our old behaviours that made us successful previously, and as we add new responsibilities at home we don’t think about the things we need to stop doing to be able to be successful in our new responsibilities.

The unfortunate reality is that the result is often us feeling burnt out and wondering how we can get it all done in the 24 hours we’re allotted each day. I’ll let you in on a secret that I learned this year… You can’t.

The more you add to your plate, the less attention you can spend on each thing and the result is that either you’ll start dropping things or you’ll be significantly less effective in dealing with the things that are really important. It’s like filling up a jug of water… at some point the jug is full and it does a really ineffective job of holding more water without something spilling over the edge.

I was forced last year to reflect on what was really important in both my personal and professional life and to purge a whole bunch of things that I was doing that weren’t creating value for me or the people around me. All of a sudden I became enlightened to the fact that those “busy” tasks were simply hurting my ability to focus on what really mattered and my overall effectiveness and happiness has dramatically increased by getting rid of them.

Now 13 months later I feel I’ve added a new tool to my repertoire for creating more joy in my life and I’m doing another inventory of the things I have been focusing on to make sure I am still focused only on the things that really matter. I already see a few things that either didn’t get cut last time around or which have crept into my focus over the past year which aren’t bringing me happiness and which I have to consciously stop doing.

I committed myself last year to re-engaging myself with the things that really matter and to focus on those things that make me truly happy – my children, strong friendships, trusting relationships, learning and growth, and a reconnection with my emotions that I had suppressed in self-preservation. I’m very happy with my progress on all those fronts over the past year and I can thank the discipline of focusing on what matters and stopping things that don’t add value for that result.

Take a look at your calendar with the critical eye of an outsider – are you busy because you really need to be or are you busy because you haven’t let go of things that don’t add value or make you happy? Now commit to making yourself happy and start cutting things out – it might be a bit uncomfortable in the short term, but when you look back next year you’ll thank yourself for putting in the effort.

About Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.

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