Intentionally Ignoring the Inessential

I’ve skipped a couple of weeks of blog posts in preparation for my presentations at SQL Server Live last week in Orlando. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make up for the lost time.

I don’t want to claim that I have an OCD but most people think I do. Let me explain. I was raised knowing how to keep things in tip-top shape. I keep my personal stuff clean and orderly. I remember the time when my step-sister paid me a visit before I was about to go to college. She looked at my closet and was shocked to see that it was way, way better than hers. I think my army reserve training made it worse that I ended up folding my shirts with the aid of cardboards and lining up my shoes according to color and usage. I brought that with me today as I travel. I’ve always tried to fix my bed before I leave my hotel room. Aside from my OCD behavior, it’s my way of helping the housekeeping crew make their jobs a lot easier. With my hotel room well maintained, it’s one less room that they need to worry about. I’ve always done that whether it’s a motel room or a hotel suite.

Until this past week. I stayed at the wonderful Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, FL as part of the reservations for the SQL Server Live conference – nice rooms, great ambience, wonderful staff. I had a whole day workshop on Day 1 and I wanted to make sure that I had a good night’s sleep, a nice meal and a prepared mind. I woke up at 5AM which was unusual for a night owl like me. Since I can no longer get back to sleep, I started preparing for my whole day workshop. While getting ready to take a shower, I started all of my virtual machines to see if they are in a state where I wanted them. I was surprised to find out after getting dressed that my iSCSI storage allocations were all corrupted. My instincts tell me to start fixing them before my workshop starts  but my eyes started to glance at the bed and the sheets, waiting to get done. I know I won’t be able to fix them all in time but at least I can get started and fix everything that I need for the morning session.

A story was told about the great violinist Jascha Heifetz who skipped doing his bed every morning to start playing the violin. At a very young age, he understood the leadership law that Dr. John Maxwell taught on his best selling book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Having done so has led him to become one of the most important and influential violinists of the twentieth century. He knew how to say no to the urgent to say YES to the important. Dr. Maxwell taught on the concept of the Pareto Principle that states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This principle has been applied in business and time management throughout the years and has helped me as lot in my personal as well as professional life.

We are all prone to responding to the urgent things in our lives. I, for one, would have ended up fixing my hotel room and leaving it the way I wanted to at that time. It would have been easier for me because I’m already used to it. But understanding that my priorities need to define the difference between what is important to me versus what is urgent helped me decide. It was a no brainer. I started working on my virtual machines knowing that my bed was left undone and my suitcase all messed up. When I left the room, I knew I was ready to deliver my workshop with confidence and expecting a great reward. Dr. Maxwell outlines three key questions that we need to answer to evaluate our priorities.

  1. What is REQUIRED of me? I was in Orlando for a reason and that is to deliver a presentation. I’m not there to clean my hotel room nor to keep the housekeeping crew happy (although those were reasons I try to keep whenever I travel.) Keeping myself focused on my primary reason helped me make those decisions.
  2. What gives the greatest RETURN? I’m very good at keeping my stuff clean and organized. But doing that is simply for personal satisfaction. Delivering a great presentation in front of a large audience gives me a much greater return because I know that those who will attend my sessions will go back to their work with new ideas to implement. Empowering others gives me the greatest return.
  3. What brings the greatest REWARD? Living out my personal mission statement gives me a high. Call it addiction but I feel the most satisfaction when I see someone grow and develop their full potential. While I know that keeping my hotel room well organized and clean also gives me some sort of personal satisfaction, it’s nothing compared to the feeling I get when I get to do what I am called to do.

As a leader, we need to get our priorities right because other people depend on us. Doing so will help us intentionally ignore the inessential.

Question: What things do you intentionally ignore to keep your important priorities? You can leave a comment below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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