Wednesday, April 27, 2011

First Things First.

First things first. My Dad used to say that to me all the time, usually when I was in the act of doing something silly like painting a model kit before assembling it, or wiping my butt before I actually sat down on the john. It’s natural, wanting to get to the “good part”, or what we think is “the important part” as soon as humanly possible. Just ask my wife.

BUT, and this is a big but, what we think is the “good part” or the “important part” isn’t always accurate. In fact, sometimes the steps leading up to it are really the most important. And in many cases, we can’t even DO the “good part” until we’ve done the other stuff first. Like crawling before you can walk, and walking before running. Or learning algebra before calculus. You need to build up the support structure before you can add on the details, or else the whole thing is going to fall apart.

Failing to do so is like getting in the car, starting it up, getting onto the highway, and then starting to think about where it is you actually need to get to.
Determine what the goal is first, figure out what the desired end state looks like, THEN start sorting out the best way to achieve it. Don’t get led off the path by the fun parts- or the parts that someone else tells you are most important. In business people often get bullied into focusing on the wrong parts of a project and end up setting the whole thing back because they’re expending all their energy to accommodate one person, and not staying on target.

Richard Machowicz, in his excellent book “Unleash The Warrior Within”, outlines what he calls the “ACTE” method of taking action on any project. It fits nicely with the whole “first things first” theme, and I love Mack, so I’ll share it with you.

A: Assess the situation. This is where you look at the desired end state or goal. What’s happening, what needs to happen? What do I really want/need to do here?
C: Create a simple Plan.
T: Take action.
E: Evaluate the results.

Repeat as necessary. Easy peasy, livin’ greasy.


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