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Work, Life, Lead: Energy or Impact?

The other day I was called a Human Blackberry because of my schedule and contacts.IMG_9721

I’m no different than most people who work for themselves. We are endlessly busy, endlessly building our networks, endlessly looking for advantages and opportunities. We are busy, and our schedule look like it.

However, what separates one busy person from another is not their activity level, but rather their perception about what those activities mean.

Listen to how people talk about their work. Too often the measure of their work is their activity level, not the impact they are having. Look at it this way.

You take a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to ski, relax, and eat at Five Star restaurants. You return home, and your neighbor asks about your trip. Your answer is to tell her about how much it cost. Nothing about relaxation, time for reflection, family time on the ski lift and in the hot tub, just a report on the energy costs for the trip.

When we look at our work as simply a set of activities on our schedule, we begin to lose touch with our purpose and the reason why we are busy. What this perception may mean is that we don’t have a very clear understanding of what our purpose is.

Try this experiment. Pull out your calendar. Look at today’s schedule. What’s on it? Meetings, encounters with people and responsibilities that must be met. Correct? That’s what my schedule looks like.

What if instead of a schedule of activities you make a schedule of impact.

How would this work?

On your schedule is a client meeting. Along side the meeting you right in one goal or objective for the meeting. In a matter of a few seconds, you have turned your scheduler into an impact plan. And if you save your calendar, at the end of the year, you’ll have a much better grasp on the impact that you have had. (See my Circle of Impact 2010 Planning Guide as a helpful tool in planning for impact).

What have we done with this little experiment? We have done one of the most important tasks that anyone can do. We have begun to align our purpose with the structure of our life and work.

Everyone of us works in a wide variety of social and organizational contexts. We have families, friends, and acquaintances. We go to work. We volunteer to coach or serve. We participate in clubs, in religious congregations and attend sports events as a fan.

Each one of these has a structure that enables us to accomplish our purpose. When our purpose isn’t clear, or our purpose is not aligned with the activities we do everyday, we find ourselves moving away from an impact focus to an activity one. We stay busy because it hides our lack of clarity about what we are actually supposed to be doing.

Now that you have changed how you schedule, let’s change how we organize.

All that is required is some reflection on what the difference is when we fulfill our purpose. The clearer and more specific we are, the easier it is for us to distinguish between the activities that help us fulfill our purpose and those that don’t.  As a result, we stop doing those activities that don’t help us, and with the extra time and energy, we can start doing things that really matter.

Energy output is not how we should measure our lives and work. The difference we make through those activities is the measure. Began to align your purpose with your activities and the structures of your life and work, and you’ll find that your life is fuller, still busy, but much more fun and satisfying.

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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Posted in General Leadership, Leadership Q + A, Work Life Lead.

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