The title of this blog might leave you wondering what the three items have to do with each other, but while I have written about strategy and the roll that emotional intelligence has in strategy, I have not written about a to-do-list. At least I have not used the term ‘to-do-list’ nor have I explicitly linked the three items.
I write that strategy is every employee, every day. It is living the strategy it is not a document. If one were to determine the Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goal (BHAG) of the firm, then one would have to assume that said goal is inspirational. It is that outrageous thing that you are trying to achieve. I also wrote that execution is hard, so hard that most don’t bother.
The link between the three items is as follows. If you are going to achieve that BHAG, then today cannot be the day that you say I will just get some of my tedious, mandatory items out of the way. For example, I know I have a weekly report to produce and then there are those emails and I may as well clean up the inbox. If you do that today, you are wasting your time. The same is true for tomorrow so that the alternative is to address the BHAG every day.
Emotional intelligence has the components of self-awareness and self-management. Self-awareness has the element of being goal orientated. Strategy is based on determining a desired outcome: a goal. I write that the desired outcome should be inspiring: big. If you have set a big goal, then you are likely to have a high emotional quotient (EQ). Self-management is related to discipline, understanding your ‘self’ then managing your ‘self’.
A to-do-list is an effective way to manage your ‘self’. But the to-do-list is a trap to those with a low EQ. How do you compare? Do you add everything to your list without regard for the importance? I am a big advocate of a to-do-list, but I have always used it in non-traditional manners. Currently, I have a to-do-list that has no more than about 6 items on it. However, the most important aspect of my, to-do-list is that I always have my BHAG on my list.
I have written about the most successful investor and how Warren Buffet views the allocation of limited resources in relation to capital expenditures. I also have written that the biggest resource that any firm has is its people, you. You also have limited resources: time and focus. Therefore, the precious allocation of those resources needs to be planned to be maximised.
Create a to-do-list but put your strategy on it every day. Set aside a minimum of 90 minutes every day to work on the strategy, the BHAG. Before you say that you cannot do that, determine what activities are keeping you from achieving this. Do you need to shut off emails, phones and any other connected devices for a period every day? I do. When I worked as a CEO, I was in the office before 7AM every day and the first hour to an hour-and-a-half, was the only real time that I shut my door. Everyone needs focussed time to succeed. I now plan uninterrupted time daily and where I do not have appointments, I plan uninterrupted time twice a day.
I place about 5 real items on my, to-do-list every day. I devote time to achieving my long-range goals every day. I treat it like a small business concept of paying yourself first or paying your profit first. I then only add other items that are major things. I schedule when I am going to focus on writing reports for example. I look at emails at about three intervals a day. The exception that I have, which is probably not good enough, is that I do take phone calls for most of the day but not during my long-range goal work time. I also have appointments with businesses and most days I find small periods of time where I can answer the emails or do the mundane. I am more opportunistic with this work than I am with the important scheduled work.
I also recommend crossing off your to do list. There is sufficient scientific evidence about the neuroscience of crossing off items on a list, but my rationale is rather more mundane. Strategy has to be measurable and within a timeframe and requires monitoring and feedback. Crossing off the list is monitoring and feedback. Not crossing it off should lead to the non-judgemental, emotionally intelligent, self-awareness question of why I did not get that done.
Taking this advice is likely to result in you working in a focussed state, on your business, every day as opposed to just working in your business. Likewise, it is akin to you personally working on you daily as opposed to just in your job.