Because Your Time Is Already Limited Enough
One of the biggest complaints across teams and leaders is that there just ‘isn’t enough time’. I mean, sure I could sit here and wax lyrical about how time management isn’t a capacity problem, it’s a prioritisation problem. And that perhaps you should spend more time aligning yourself with the Eisenhower Matrix.
But you’ve likely heard all that before. The truth is that most of the time it’s a pipedream that doesn’t survive its crash landing with reality.
After all, you’re still flat-out right?
We all are.
So, I want to share with you a few techniques that underpin my own superpower.
You see, I’m incredibly average in most areas – – I’m average height, average weight, average athleticism, average coordination, average voice-range, average musical talent and average cooking ability. (Although to my credit, my beard does grow fairly well and I have a slightly rarer blood type: A Negative!) But despite my averageness – growing up I was one of those kids who did so well in school that I was nominated for advanced & accelerated classes. I even started my university degree while still at high school. My career advancement was fast too, from graduate to senior management in 5 years.
What was my secret? → well, the truth is for a long time, I didn’t really know.
Then a few years ago it dawned on me.
My super-power is that I’m able to very rapidly decipher complexity and take away only the most meaningful elements. A very useful skill indeed, and last week while being interviewed for 21st Century Entrepreneurship, I was asked how I did it.
Here’s (possibly*) what I told them:
Brendon’s Top 3 Techniques to Rapidly Dial In On What Really Matters
1 – Filter, hard. (Ignore the detail. Yes seriously.)
To kick this off, here’s a little controversial advice. Most of the detail doesn’t matter. It’s fluff. And you can safely ignore it. Job ads all love to search for ‘detail-oriented’ people, and for airplane pilots and solution architects that makes sense. However, for day-to-day project and change leadership, you can leave the detail to someone else.
In other words – exercise some strategic laziness.
2 – Interrogate complexity with questions already in mind.
Know what you want from your deep dive into complexity before you even dip a toe in. To illustrate what I mean here, think back to last time you went grocery shopping. You likely did one of two things. You either:
a) meandered through every aisle selecting whatever took your fancy, or you
b) walked in with stern determination, and like Arya Stark from Game of Thrones, you methodically made your way through your (grocery) list.
Be like Arya. Know what you’re looking for beforehand. And, on that note, here’s what I normally look for:
3 – Find the story.
Humans remember stories. So if you want to remember what you’re delving into – the easiest way is to find the story.
- What’s already happened?
- What does the present look like?
- Who are the key players?
- How does it all connect together?
- Who wants what?
- What’s the challenge here?
- And ultimately, what does that mean for the future?
Bonus marks if you then summarise the story to someone else. Not only will you look clever and save them time, you’ll also etch it into your medium-term memory.
*The interview was at 5am, so I can’t be quite sure…
And A Quick Note: On What Matters
The human brain is well honed through eons of evolution. That means it’s ok to trust your first instinct. Sure sometimes you’ll be wrong, but that’s an inevitability anyway.
Surround yourself with clever people that counter your blind spots and keep moving.