Does what’s most important end up in your calendar? (Part 2)

In the last blog, we looked at how our “Unconscious Time Management” prioritizes our calendar according to our Ego fears, not what is most meaningful to us. The flip side is also true: our Ego prioritizes what inflates it.

Therefore the other things that make it into our calendar are what we believe will give us recognition and visibility.

I am so important because I’m overcommitted and overwhelmed

We have clients that have recognized that they had accepted countless side projects, volunteer activities, speaking engagements, boards to be on… not out of a real deep interest in the matter but because it made them feel important. And I can relate. When I explain how life is so crazy these days because I have to fly here and there, and that I’m asked to participate in this and that… well, my Ego feels a pleasurable boost.

As always with our work, our recommendation is not to throw the baby out with the bath water and refuse any proposal where I can contribute. No, the question is always “why?” Why in my heart of hearts do I want to do this? Because it’s aligned with my life purpose and the impact I want to have in the world? Because it’s going to re-energize me and rejuvenate my creativity? Because I care so much about this topic and feel I can have an impact?

Or is it mainly because I feel worthy or important for being asked or just for being busy? The answer might require a little honesty and self-searching.

Sometimes the motivations are both for my self-esteem and because I care, and then the answer of whether to accept requires a little more processing. Nonetheless, these clients were able to open a lot of time in their calendar and relieve their sense of stress, or more judiciously fill it with what they were passionate about and not even notice that their calendar was packed.

The Hero Complex

What happens if my Unconscious Time Management mostly pushes me to do what is visible and shiny? Can I really be good team player? What if the mundane is essential in long run?

I remember this VP who didn’t listen to reports of a potential open issue in his department’s billing system. I admit that unless you love creating processes, it’s not the sexiest problem to pay attention to. However, once the issue became a crisis, he brought everything to a halt to solve it… The cost in terms of time, stress and lost business were high — but in his eyes, he had saved the day. Would he have felt the same sense of satisfaction if he had taken the time early on to resolve the issue? Not if his unconscious model of success is being a hero.

The Pyromaniac Fireman

As you can see in the above example, when we are driven by recognition and what’s shiny, we create tomorrow’s problems, which we’ll have to solve at a higher cost. In these moments, we feel like the knight in shining armor saving the day, but in reality we were the pyromaniac who unwittingly created the fire in the first place.

I know a number of still young executives whose immune systems are starting to fail them because they run their life under this stress…

A Culture of heroes

In prioritizing what seems sexy, I set the tone for the environment around me. When I run after being the hero, others often feel the desire to be heroes as well. If I sense more competition and less collaboration in my team, I probably shouldn’t be surprised.

Simple practice

In general in your calendar, take the time to look at the things you tend to sweep under the rug. The less visible actions that also need your attention to build a strong department and prevent the problem of tomorrow — be it mentoring someone or addressing an admin issue.

And as we go through our day, it’s important to ask ourselves: what are my true motivations in focusing on this at this moment? Am I avoiding something else that might be less sexy, less easy, less fun… but important in long run?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

  1. Dana Gaya says:

    I love volunteering, makes me feel good, but yeah, I had to cut back to save myself.

    1. Noah Nuer says:

      Hi Dana, I hear you. It can be hard to make these choices.

  2. Turquoise Cottage says:

    My question is how do you balance not falling victim to the hero complex and not being caught drowning in the truly unimportant?

    1. Noah Nuer says:

      I’m not sure this is a question of balance. My view on this is that the truly important is sometimes something that will bring you recognition and visibility and sometimes it won’t. The problem becomes when I start being addicted to the recognition… then it is that that drives my agenda, and I may sometimes do the truly important and sometimes avoid it because it won’t bring me direct recognition. That is not the fabric of a great leader.

  3. Laurie says:

    Hey don’t knock chasing the sexy, shiny problems, it gets you recognition from the higher ups.

  4. Limzer Lagrimas says:

    So the motivation being both self-esteem and genuine care, what’s the call? Weight one against the other, flip a coin?

    1. Noah Nuer says:

      To me self-esteem will come as a result of genuine care. This tells you how I make my prioritization (when I keep my Ego in check anyway).

  5. Zen Ziejewski says:

    Great post, great tips

    1. Noah Nuer says:

      Thank you Zen

  6. Richard Atkinson says:

    Ok great advice for the individual, but ho does one change the habits of others?

    1. Noah Nuer says:

      I don’t think we have control on the habits of others. We can support them, mentor them, influences them. I would think it always start with a delicate conversation to align on perception and goals. But that would be the subject of another blog… or book.
      PS: Some also try to coerce other to change but it doesn’t seem like it works long-term (and can be morally questionable).

  7. Linda says:

    Truly I can’t always dedicate time to examine all these decisions, it wastes too much time and creates additional stress.

    1. Noah Nuer says:

      Linda, you could start with just exploring a few decisions through out the day instead of all of them. Soon enough you’ll develop like a sixth sense that red flags when you are approaching a task for the wrong reasons.

  8. K says:

    I tend to once or twice a month dedicate designated time to doing things I hate or sweep under the rug to ensure that it doesn’t come back to bit me later.

    1. Noah Nuer says:

      Thanks for the best practice. I personally like it. I too put structures to support me with these things… a safety net.

  9. Ken D. Foster says:

    Got a buddy at work who I think thrives on the stress of having fires everywhere and having to solve the problem, going to pass this on.

    1. Noah Nuer says:

      Hope it speaks to him. If anything else, it could lead to a generative conversation between the two of you about you perception and why you think this could help him.

  10. Sarah says:

    This is great, Noah. Thank you.

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