What is really next?

Photo courtesy of Erik Schepers (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Erik Schepers (Creative Commons)

Something I fight constantly is the trap of “loudest and most recent” when I’m getting things done.

It seems no matter how much I plan, I get sent off track when someone interrupts me with their “urgent” need. I think it will only take a minute and will be better than adding it to a list or asking someone to do it, and before I know it the day is over, or my energy is flagging, and I have done a lot of busy-work but not the real work that I had intended.

Often that busy work could have either waited or been delegated, and here I was, wasting precious time and energy taking care of it. Ugh.

What’s really next?

That’s the question I need to be asking myself frequently throughout the day. Secondary questions include: Is this part of my role? Does this action move me toward my mission and my critical goals? Am I the best person to do this?

If the answer to any of the secondary questions is “no,” then I need to stop and consider why that potential action is even on my list. Granted, there will be times when I do things that aren’t related to my mission or role, but that needs to be after I have spent good focused time on activities related to my mission and my primary responsibilities and goals.

Even more than adding things to my list to deal with later, I need to get better at saying, “You can contact (insert name here) and they can help you with this,” or “Here is where you can find that information.” Then I can get right back to what I am meant to be doing.

I work extensively with an organization called I Run 4 (read more here), in which runners/athletes are paired with adults and children with special needs and dedicate their workouts to their buddies. The support and encouragement that develops out of these new relationships is incredible. However, there is a long waiting list of runners to be matched, and also not all the matches work out.

My role is to coordinate the new matches, and make sure buddies and runners get connected initially. As of this writing, we have nearly 30,000 members in the closed Facebook group, almost 9,700 buddy/runner matches, and over 3,000 runners on the wait list, so you can imagine the numbers of emails and messages I field daily. It keeps me busy!

When I get a message from a runner wanting to know what number they are on the waiting list, or that someone is having issues with their buddy/runner and wants a rematch, I have to be diligent about referring those kinds of communications to the person or place where they can get help. I have learned the hard way, if I am not good at deflecting, then I end up bogged down in a lot of “stuff” that keeps me from doing what I need to.

At first, I would stop and look up the runner to let them know where they were on the list, but we post that list in the group every week, and I have learned to simply let them know where they can find it so they can look it up on their own.

Another volunteer manages any HR issues that arise between buddies and runners, and works with both parties to remind them of guidelines, work out issues, or make the decision to rematch or remove members. She is compassionate and kind, and really good at what she does.

When someone messages me with issues, it only adds to the frustration of everyone involved if I do anything other than refer them right away to our HR director. I have learned to not even get involved but to let them know immediately who they need to contact, her email, and that she can help them.

These actions help me stay focused on my true role of processing the new buddies and runners and announcing those life-changing matches.

What things come into your life that you should deflect? How can you stay focused on saying, “What’s really next?”