Rule 8: Create Boundaries for Yourself
Where should you focus?
A big part of the answer to this question is the choice we always face between now or later – the well known tension between the urgent and the important, a la Steven Covey’s Seven Habits which, incidentally, was the first real book on personal development that I ever read.
As my friend wrote, the answer is usually now and later.
If your house is on fire, put it out.
But as soon as you can, install a fire alarm, and find and eliminate the cause of the fire.
Start focusing on the important, non-urgent things that will make things easier tomorrow. Plant seeds. Enrich the soil. Give gifts to your future self and to others.
Creating the right kind of barriers for yourself and your organisation is essential to getting the deeper tasks done:
- I choose not to answer messages about work outside working hours so that I can recharge and do better work during work hours
- I don’t automatically take jobs with low pay or unreasonable deadlines, just because it’s a job – other people’s rush doesn’t have to become mine
- I’m learning to give a small, early ‘nos’ to some good things so that I can say a big, enthusiastic ‘yes’ to fewer, greater things
- My organisation has its own vision and focus. If you want us to help your teachers, let’s talk. If you want us to build schools – that’s not for us, and if that means we’re not for you, that’s fine
- Planning less in my day so that I can deal graciously with the things that inevitably do come up – and just so that I can greet my neighbour in the street
- Deciding in advance how much I’m prepared to commit
To finish up, Rule 8 can stay as it is. I’d just add one note: with all of these things, now is better than later, but many of the important and exciting things that happen to us just take time, or only happen at the right time. You can’t force them – so it’s worth setting boundaries in advance for how hard you’ll push.