Doing What You Have to Do
“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” – Epictetus
If New Year’s Day serves as the traditional launch point for goals and objectives, the 4th of July holiday (in the United States) serves as the midway point for the year. The first two quarters are over, it’s time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t and apply it to the two quarters to come. This applies in your career, but also with personal objectives. This is also a time to assess what you’d like to become in the second half of the year and build towards it. So with that in mind, I’m certainly reviewing and revising my business plan for 2019, and I’m doing the same with my personal plan. They’re intertwined and should be scrutinized with equal measure.
If there’s one theme constant across business and personal goals, it’s that I need to do more of the “good” things and less of the “bad” things. Schedule more productive meetings and less unproductive meetings. More exercise and less junk food. More thoughtful discussion with key decision-makers, less checking the box with people who pay you lip service and never commit to buy.
So the rowing and the 10 burpees per day are great, but increasing total meters rowed and incrementally moving the burpees up to 12 would be better so long as the shoulder pain is in check. The shoulder injury occurred last fall when I pushed the daily total to 50 per day and ignored the objections my body was broadcasting clearly. So increase, but in manageable increments. Likewise, Increasing the number of productive face-to-face meetings is surely beneficial, and revising the target upward at the halfway mark is a good idea so long as it doesn’t dilute the quality of the meetings or ultimately the output in monthly sales revenue. Being the busiest isn’t a sign of most productive. In fact the two rarely seem to go hand and hand. Busywork can plug up the day but ultimately doesn’t get you anywhere. Someone I once worked with used the term “high gain activity” to describe the type of productive work that advances you towards your objectives, and I’ve adopted that phrase into my own vocabulary. Focusing on high gain activity means you aren’t hiding in your work, you’re maximizing your productivity through action.
Productivity starts with knowing what you’re advancing towards, or as Epictetus said, knowing what you would be. Sometimes that’s simple. I would be better off healthier and twenty pounds lighter than I currently am, so that drives behavior like daily exercise and eating in moderation. I could use more of each. But larger goals require some deep thought and self-knowledge. I would be better off long term in my career if I developed a more strategic and productive channel, met with more and better qualified clients and prospects and if I measure the results.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” – Peter Drucker
Tracking the key activities is essential to accomplishing the big things. What gets tracked gets done. Which means breaking down big goals into daily habits, which are tasks done automatically and repeated day-to-day. Epictetus would say do what you have to do, Bill Bellichick would say “Do your job.” and Peter Drucker would say “Do you duty”.
“Our duty is rarely easy, but it is important. It’s also usually the harder choice. But we must do it.” – Ryan Holiday