Achievement. It’s what we all get up for, right?
To accomplish our goals and aspirations.
Making progress on our top priorities, or just finishing our to-do list.
But the world is rarely lines-up to help us achieve those goals.
Have you ever gotten to the end of a long day and thought, “Did I even get anything done?”
We all have, and it’s exhausting.
William James said it well:
"Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task."
(credit to Laura Posey)
Achievement has many enemies that never sleep.
Here are three of the biggest challengers and what you can do to beat them now.
Uncertainty is the main cause for hesitation and delay.
It undermines confidence and tends to come from what’s missing.
‘Not knowing’ how something will turn out, how others will respond, or whether we will have a remedy or solution that works, will keep us from moving forward.
What you can do now to fill in the gaps:
Get more information. Ask questions.
Do research and start listing ideas or options for solutions that you find in the process.
Talk with others. Learn from their experience and perspective. Ask their opinion, or what they would do in your situation? If they can’t help, ask if they know who could.
Here’s a question that will snap you out of hesitation-mode:
What information do I (or we) need to take action on this:
a. in the next 10 minutes?
b. within an hour?
c. by the end of the day?
d. in order to finish with time to spare?
Once you have the answer, go get it! Decide when you'll be done with uncertainty.
Some people stop when they can’t see the next step. Others turn on the lights and keep going.
Rest assured; you will rarely have everything you need to be completely certain. And that’s okay.
You don’t have to fear uncertainty. It’s not really an enemy. It’s part of life and will visit you daily. But it does pay to be good at not letting it stop or slow you down. Be confident that you’ll figure it out.
Get more information. Just not so much that you fall into the hands of the next enemy.
Confusion hinders action.
It surrounds us like fog, obscuring our vision. Slowing our willingness and ability to move forward.
It’s a close cousin of Uncertainty, and it has the same effect.
If uncertainty comes from a lack of information, confusion often comes from too much.
TMI, too many options, or conflicting advice (which I get ALL the time).
What do you want when you’re stuck in the fog?
Here are two great ways to achieve it.
1. Filter the possibilities
Like water or air, clarity results from filtering.
To overcome confusion, filter the information, options, or competing advice you have against your own:
All of the above.
This will quickly clear the fog or, at least thin it to help you see the best course.
If you’re still not clear, use the uncertainty question where you need more info and filter again till your confusion disappears.
2. Take Action
Confusion hinders action. That’s a fact. But the opposite is also true.
In fact, clarity is often found in motion.
Tony Robbins argues that "The antidote to confusion is action."
This is why people find answers or inspiration while walking, driving, or doing something that involves movement.
Don’t just sit there… Do something.
If you have several options, pick one and get started. Things will quickly become more clear.
The next enemy is everywhere, all the time.
Distraction means diverting your attention to something other than your intended focus.
It’s not something that happens to us. It’s something we allow... And even invite at times.
This enemy comes in many forms. Here are two of the biggest sources these days:
1. Our Devices
You know what I mean.
That thing in your pocket. The one on your lap. The ones on your desk - at home and work. And the ones hanging in nearly every room of your house.
Smart technology that we pay good money to buy, upgrade, and subscribe monthly, so they can distract us from our priorities.
To be fair, we can be very productive with these convenient miracles of modern science. We can:
Make contact with colleagues and customers
Search and research
Close a deal
Book a vacation
But why is it, so often (easily over half the time), that we’re doing other sh*t?
Wasting time. Checking email or text messages, looking for the next distraction. Or mindlessly scrolling down a bottomless rabbit hole of what other people are flaunting on social media.
Do you own your devices, or do they own you?
Here are some things you can do to gain immunity, on-demand, from these formidable distractions:
Turn off your phone and notifications. At least while you’re focused on your top priority and the time leading up to it. The rest of the world can wait while you get ahead.
If you’re worried about that call from your kids or your boss, there are ways on every device to let those come through while blocking everything else out.
Commit to no TV, even for a few nights. Instead, spend time doing things with your family or catching up with friends. Help a neighbor. Or grab one of those books you’ve been meaning to read. You’ll get better every day – and probably sleep better too.
Learning to take command of your devices makes it much easier to defeat the next Distraction enemy.
2. Overwhelm – as in an overwhelming workload.
You know this one... You have 10 things to do that all need to be done first!
Even after you’ve started at the top of your list; 2 through 10 occupy large portions of your brain, pulling at your attention while you know the list is getting even longer.
Your mind never really settles on one thing, because there are SO many.
It may seem that EVERY day is like this.
I can’t remember the last time that I had less than 10 things to do. Seriously. It's been years.
In Gary Keller's terrific book, The ONE Thing, he shares a process that works!
Cut through the clutter, overcome that overwhelmed feeling and master what matters to you.
On the days where I block everything else out; buckle-down, and FOCUS first on completing the most important thing I need to do, the whole rest of the day feels much better.
Even if my next 9 priorities are still circling like buzzards - my energy and outlook improve.
My confidence and self-esteem get a shot of adrenalin.
I even sleep better at night. Who doesn’t sleep better with a sense of accomplishment rather than the dread of unfinished responsibilities.
Now I’m ready to take on the next challenge. Even if it's two or three on one…
The Gang of Thieves
Unlike an old martial arts movie, the Enemies of Achievement rarely approach one-at-a-time. When they attack together, it’s even harder to fend them off and be productive.
It happens to me often. I’ll be writing my next article or working on a new solution for a client.
I become uncertain about what to write, or the next best step. As my mind circles the possibilities, I become confused. While my concentration is losing its footing, my phone rings, or a meeting reminder pings. I check my calendar... While looking, I see that 5 new emails have come in. Some I can just delete. Two are responses I’ve been waiting for.
Next thing you know, I can be completely off track, responding and clearing my inbox rather than making progress on my first priority.
The good news is that we can beat these challenges.
Uncertainty. Confusion. Distraction.
They creep in to plague our thinking and hijack our attention. Usually without us realizing it until we’re behind schedule.
There are no warning lights or ringtones for any of these enemies. If there were, we could set alerts and stay on track.
But now we can recognize them early, hit the reset button, and do what It takes to keep moving forward.
Uncertain? Get more information, now. Don’t hesitate.
Confused? Use your filters. Take action on something. Get clarity.
Distracted? Control your devices and alerts. Focus on Job #1. Rule out the others.
Achievement is THE key metric for any leader, yet we’re all vulnerable to these enemies.
The question is how prepared and resilient we are when they strike.
Change how you deal with Uncertainty, Confusion and Distraction to reliably achieve your goals.
Here’s to your success!
P.S. What do you do to beat uncertainty, confusion, and distraction? And what other enemies of achievement do you face?
Reply below. I’ll include your solutions and challenges in a future newsletter.
For more tips to make rapid progress and succeed as a leader check out my weekly Changing Lanes Newsletter.
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