A recent New York magazine feature on the power of distraction pointed out that one of the most prescient statements about our info-overloaded 21st century existence was actually made in 1971, by Nobel-prizewinning economist Herbert A. Simon:
“What information consumes is rather obvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”
Between a constant stream of email, employee inquiries, and customer demands, most business leaders could – and often do – spend most of their day responding to urgent issues and putting out small fires. As we get caught up in reacting to present concerns, long-term goals fall by the wayside. And before you know it, you’re just maintaining the status quo, rather than moving your business forward.
In order to make sure that the persistent concerns of NOW don’t monopolize our attention, we must always prioritize on two levels: 1) day-to-day concerns, and 2) long-term business goals, aka “big-picture priorities”.
The common tendency is to make a daily to-do list, but we should also have broader goals on a 3-month or 1-year to-do list. Perhaps even writ large and posted on the wall to keep them top of mind. Then, every day as you decide how to allocate your time, you can consult the big-picture priorities. Ideally, ensuring that you reserve X amount of your to-do time (say, between 20-40%) exclusively for forwarding long-term goals.
By prioritizing for today AND tomorrow, you recognize the daily reality of reacting to unanticipated concerns and problems while continuing to be proactive about keeping your eye on the (big-picture) prize.
***The Behance team researches productivity and leadership in the creative world. These entries are adapted and edited by Jocelyn K. Glei from the Behance team's past articles and research. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the Action Method project management application, the Creative Jobs List, and develops knowledge, products, and services that help creative professionals make ideas happen.