A few weeks ago I was tempted to put off a high-priority job because somebody needed something from me and said it was urgent. The truth is what they needed from me was urgent, it just wasn’t urgent for me. What they needed was going to help them get their job done.
I call these kinds of distractions a “ringing phone.” It’s amazing how much a ringing phone takes priority over everything else, and often the stuff that is more important given your various responsibilities. When a phone rings we rarely know what the person who is calling wants, but we drop whatever we are doing to answer.
Metaphorically, a ringing phone is something that feels urgent but isn’t.
With this specific incident, I went back to my goals and realized if I kept taking myself off task to answer ringing phones, I’d never get my work done. So for two days I completed my tasks, then helped them with their project.
Not answering the ringing phone did two things for me:
- It affirmed my priorities. These days, ringing phones are much easier to ignore if they aren’t in line with what I’m trying to accomplish.
- It set boundaries for the people who need my help. It let them know my responsibilities come first and then I’d be able help with theirs. if you think about it, even Jesus walked away from the sick and the hungry to spend time with His Father.
The person was a little frustrated I didn’t give them what they needed. And I felt a little bit like a jerk for not helping. But after 24 hours, I started feeling better and I got an e-mail from the person explaining how much they respected my decision and how grateful they were after I’d helped them out.
So, lets be careful to tell the difference between a ringing phone and an actual priority.
What are the ringing phones that keep taking you off task? Do you think people would respect you more if you created boundaries around your primary responsibilities?
* If you would like to know more about prioritizing responsibilities, register for a Storyline Conference today. In the Storyline process, you’ll fill out several modules helping you identify the roles you play in life and prioritize your ambitions within those roles. To find out more, click here.
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