Picking opportunities from distractions

doorPay-off: helps you decide where to put your time and why
Investment: 3.5 mins (2 mins if you’d learned to speed read)

Every day and all day you face constant decisions, distractions, offers, opportunities, and other things competing for your attention.

On the one hand you don’t want to be distracted, you want to focus to be productive. But on the other hand, what if one of those opportunities was career or life changing and you missed it?

How do you know what to say yes or no to?

This might help.

The corridor of opportunity

Consider viewing your path ahead as if standing at the start of a long corridor, a bit like the picture above.

The task in hand

The corridor has a door facing you right down the end that represents your current project, priority, goal or task, and lots of doors either side all the way down, much like a hotel corridor.

Options, opportunities and distractions

The doors either side represent all the other options, opportunities and distractions ahead of you. You could knock on those doors to see what’s behind them if you’re intrigued or if you’re looking for specific people, but some of them you won’t need to knock on because they have people poking their heads out trying to tempt you with the next opportunity or offer!

The big question

Now, answer this:

Which of the following two options is more important (i.e. makes the most impact) to you, your career, your life, and your grander goals and plans?

Option 1: Is it for you to get through that door at the end by a certain deadline and reap the predictable rewards (or avoid the predictable negative consequences of failing to do so)?

Or..

Option 2: Is it for you to find a better door? Should you explore and find a door to a shortcut or a safer, stronger or better position to secure for your business, career or life?

Which is it?

It pays to be clear on which of those you would choose over the other. The common but costly mistake is to just pick one based on how you feel or based on a whim. (You get sidetracked because you’re procrastinating on getting to your end goal, or you get too busy and focused on getting your job done (or doing things the way you’ve always done them) and miss important career or life changing opportunities that are under your nose).

I tend to view this purposefully built binary decision as a zero-sum decision. It’s red or black (if you like gambling). It’s blue or red (if you like ‘The Matrix’). It’s one without the other. Because it gives me a chance to confirm to myself what I’m doing and why.

Focused delivery vs growth mode

I’m either in focused delivery mode in order to create and connect something of value, or I’m in exploratory growth mode.

The former is safer, and easier to stick with, usually with a clear return.

The latter is riskier, requires bravery, and shakes things up, but with potentially higher returns.

The former usually has you moving in calculated steps.

The latter can have you moving in leaps and bounds.

Which do you want right now? And when should you next remind yourself to ask the question again?

But how do you know which one to pick?

Well, it’s probabilistic. But you increase your chances by knowing what you want and what you don’t want to happen in your career and life moving ahead and then whether your current position is delivering on those or not.

If it isn’t yet, then it pays to write down what opportunities to move you to a better position might look like, and then you can either go seeking them when you have some downtime, or you can respond to them if they float past (and trust me, once you’ve defined them in writing, more will float past than ever before..that’s not some weird magic, it’s because of what psychologists call ‘attention bias’ – when something is brought to your attention, you notice more of it, even though it was there all along).

Sometimes you’ll find investigating or investing in those is more important than the task in hand that you think you should be getting on with just because that’s the norm for you.

Other times you’ll feel strongly that delivering a result is more important than pursuing any other opportunities right now to actually strengthen your position or enjoyment.

Just decide purposefully rather than just letting things happen!

Next week I’ll show one of the best techniques I ever learned for getting clarity on this that’s simple and exciting when you do it, and useful too for when selling to customers. Sign up to my posts (top of the screen) if you want that in your inbox.

I hope this has helped. If you have any questions for me, contact me here.

Cheers,

Mark

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