I remember the first time I ever went scuba diving. It wasn’t in the ocean looking at beautiful sea life, nor was it in a lake, diving to see what lay at the bottom. My first diving experience was in a freshwater river in Florida. I had high hopes of seeing a manatee, but alas, that did not come to pass.
During that dive, there were areas where the current was slow and the dive master and I kicked back and forth under the surface as he showed me different things to see. And there were other times, when the river narrowed, that I just spread my arms wide and went along for the ride. It’s the way I imagine flying would be, soaring along above the riverbed, looking down and seeing things as we passed. During those times, the best I could manage was descending or ascending a bit. But if I missed something to see, that was just too bad. There was no way I could power upstream to look at it.
It made me think of the saying, “Life gets in the way” or “Life got in the way” as the reason something important didn’t get done. Charles Hummel wrote an ebook (1997) called The Tyranny of the Urgent that talks about a similar concept, and many time management experts tell us to prioritize the important over the urgent.
In my last post (Is it time to end something?) I mentioned how crazy the previous two weeks had been. Well, it didn’t end there. And to put it bluntly, life got in the way!
It turns out that every activity your children are involved in picks the 3rd week of May to have their final concert, award ceremony, or end of year celebration? To cap it off, my wife decided to spend a little overnight in the hospital in the middle of it all. She’s totally fine, just a crazy little thing with a racing heart. Can we say stress everyone? (Yes dear, I know we weren’t going to tell my mom, but she reads all these posts. Hi Mom, she really is totally fine.).
All that to say that life definitely gets in the way. The urgent overwhelms the important. As a leader, you fight this every day. Books are written about it. There is a multi-billion dollar industry about time management. And yet, we all know that urgent consistently trumps important… every day. So what do we do?
My personal “go to strategy” is to lower my head and plow through it. Work longer hours, get less sleep, get cranky, work longer hours, get even less sleep and get more cranky until my body (or my family) says enough and rebels. Unbelievably, not a single time management guru recommends this approach.
Like many of you, I’ve tried just about every recommendation, life hack, and Jedi mind trick I know about and I still find myself in the same position over and over. So again I ask, what do we do?
There is really only one answer.
Stop seeing life as “getting in the way”, and realize that “life IS the way.
The only way to move forward is to work within the flow of your life.
Just like when I was in that river, so many times we are waiting until the speed of our lives slow down, or we foolishly think we can swim upstream to achieve our goals and dreams. Instead, when we learn to ride the current, working with the flow of our lives rather than against it, we can achieve much greater success.
And maybe, just maybe, when the current is really fast, we are just supposed to spread our arms and fly.