Stop Chasing Rabbits

HareAs a leader, sometimes your “stop doing” list is just as important, if not more so than your “to do” list. And one of the things that should be on your stop doing list is chasing rabbits.

If you have ever seen a rabbit being chased, they dart to and fro, first heading one way and then pivoting and moving in a totally different direction. The likelihood that one will catch the rabbit is pretty slim, however, the likelihood that the chase will take you totally off course from where you were headed is almost guaranteed. Stop chasing rabbits.

I get it. Rabbits grab your attention. There will often be well-intended individuals encouraging you to chase after them. And once you’ve started down the rabbit trail, turning around is hard . . . after all, you’ve gone this far, maybe what you’re seeking lies just around the next bend, right?!? Stop chasing rabbits.

For nonprofit leaders, rabbits may come disguised as “funding opportunities” that pull you first one way and then another. When the rabbit first caught your eye, you didn’t think it would lead you too far from your intended path — your stated mission. But, once you start chasing the money, each step may take you farther and farther from the trail you set out to follow.

Other times, “experts” may urge you to veer from your course to follow a “trend” rabbit. According to these unnamed experts, everyone is going to have to be doing it. (At which point I hear echoes of my mother asking something about “if everyone jumped off a bridge . . .”) This rabbit is especially adept at changing directions depending on which way the wind is blowing.

And then there are the “quick and easy” rabbits that seem to promise an easier path than the one that you are currently treading. Maybe quick and easy if you’re built like a rabbit, but few organizations are as agile or designed to adapt to the terrain the way a rabbit is (ever take the “quickest” route recommended by GPS only to end up stranded on a dirt road in the middle on no where?).

I am not saying you should not pursue funding opportunities, listen to experts’ predictions or look for an easier path. I am simply saying you should do all those things within the context of your path . . . your mission. Rabbits aren’t thinking about where you want to go. They are following their own trail. If your paths intersect, great! Just don’t forget to look at each new trail based on the likelihood that it will ultimately lead to where you want to go.

It takes discipline and focus to resist the temptation, but sometimes the best way to reach your destination is to stop chasing rabbits.

Big Rocks

Transparent Jar With Different StonesMany of us have heard variations of the “Big Rocks” story . . . you know, the one where when you start by putting the little rocks in the container, the big rocks will never fit in, but if you start by placing the big rocks in the container, it is amazing how many little rocks will fit in and around the big rocks, and done this way the container will ultimately hold far more than you might have imagined.

Clearly, the container is our time, and the big rocks are our priorities, which far too often get pushed to the side because we have filled our day up with little rocks . . . those “urgent” matters that peck away at our best intentions until our day is full, and our big rocks sit outside the box. We know this, right?!? Unfortunately, knowing it and doing it are not the same thing. And proudly checking little rocks off our to-do list, while perhaps momentarily satisfying, does nothing to get our big rocks into the container.

What to do? I recently ran across a quote from Stephen Covey, which said, “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Really? Could it be that simple? Ahh, but as we’ve touched on in this blog before, simple and easy are not the same thing. Yes, it is simple . . . just block out time in your schedule for your priorities. Simple, but oh so hard . . .

After all, big rocks are so . . .well . . . big. They can be intimidating. And they’re important, so you want to make sure you do it right. Maybe you’d better think about it a bit longer . . . It’s an easy trap to fall into, and one that results with filling your container with little rocks.

If the key is to put the big rocks in first, then why not start each day by considering what you’re going to do that day related to your priorities? How can you move things forward, even a little bit, on those projects you have identified as most important? Then do that thing, regardless of what else does or doesn’t get done that day (although, as noted above, you’d be surprise what you can fit in when you take tasks in the right order). I’d be willing to bet when you start with your priorities, regardless of what else you accomplish in a day, you will feel far more productive than if you checked off 27 less meaningful items from your list.

Feel free to keep a copy of this blog next to your to-do list as a reminder of what should be at the top of the list . . . or, if that’s too easy to ignore, you could do what I do and literally keep a bowl of rocks on your desk — it may not be subtle, but you’d be amazed at what we accomplish around here!