The organisation has its mission statement, and you may have your own. Hopefully, both are inspiring although the former tends to come across as a set of PR-drafted, pandering platitudes that have little to do with the actions you take at the front line. I recall reading one mission statement on LinkedIn that caused me to reply, “Beautiful mission – but what do you actually do?”
But there’s a problem bigger than the accuracy or floweriness of a mission statement. It is that no matter whether or not it is inspiring, its not the mission that takes precedence. Ever.
It’s the minutiae of ‘things to do’ that focuses your attention. Always.
For all the high-fallutin’ talk, your ‘mission’ is just the top of a peak that is made up of hundreds and thousands of old, current and future tasks. To paraphrase David Allen of Getting Things Done fame, you don’t ‘do’ a mission – you do all the tasks that lead to its success. Or you don’t.
Which is probably (possibly accidentally) why I wrote Police Time Management back to front. By that I mean that other TM books traditionally lead with the mission and setting of goals, and then go into the management of stuff. In PTM, I felt that you already have enough stuff that needs addressing NOW that I’d start with that and thus create the time you need for the higher level considerations.
Every day you walk in to work, if your experience is typical of police officers and staff that I worked with, the first thing you have to do is check your emails and other incoming notifications (e.g. NICHE and other management systems) that will either support the plans you had when you walked through the car park, or will scupper them completely. These are the tasks that others are demanding of you (top-down) begging of you (bottom up) or are the result of your own input (self-generated). The key to staying on top of this workload is possession and disciplined application of a system.
The tendency for most is to do the easy things first, but the trap for the undisciplined is that they never get to the important stuff. The strategy must be to look at everything, assess the time needed to do them, their importance, when they can be done (i.e. not how long but are the resources/people available) and therefore what you can fit in and what you simply can’t.
Once you’ve done that – assessed the whole load – only then can you do what Allen suggests, which is get all the two minute tasks done and dusted as long as they ARE 2-minute joblets and you still get the priorities done as well. By that, I mean that you can leave two minute tasks alone in order to do the important, bigger things because you know that a two minute task can be fitted in just about anywhere in your schedule. But doing them early has the benefit of easing you into work and providing some moderate wins for the day.
As I said, this clears up the minutiae which will, eventually, lead to the mission’s completion, while clearing your mind of the stress that the list caused when you first saw it. You feel the control that you’re experiencing as you work through your planning, and then your plan.
I’ve never seen a house built by plonking a completed domicile on a plot of land. They’re all designed, and then built brick, by brick, by brick. So is your organisation’s mission – lots of bricks. Some less important than others, maybe, but imagine if the brickie left out the bricks he thought were the less important ones.
In the same way, the Dambusters’ success started with an old man playing with a rubber band and some ball bearings on a garden pond.
Imagine if your next two-minute task was as important. It just might be.