Leadership Essentials: Discipline
Advertising agencies are paid to produce. While ad agencies mark every commercial, magazine page, billboard, and storefront window, few campaigns have the kind of success that marks our lives. One such campaign was launched in 1988 by global marketing exec Dan Wieden. You likely don’t know Wieden, but you know his work. Just Do It. Somehow this little phrase has far transcended the original meaning and the campaign that made it famous, becoming the unofficial slogan for the first leadership essential—discipline.
Discipline is simply doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done. This is the first leadership essential because it contains both the spark to begin and the fuel to continue.
Yet discipline escapes us. College study halls are filled with blood-shot eyes of serial procrastinators, typing mindlessly for papers due in hours. Company sales departments are filled with fantasy football champions, falling behind on their cold calls.
Distractions are often innocent, but over time they derail dreams and accelerate apathy. In order to achieve the goal of doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done, we’ll use a two-question framework to organize our action:
- Is it important?
- Is it urgent?
Priorities are the value statements we attach to the things that deserve our time. Some priorities have value to us while some are given to us with other’s value attached.
The question, “is it important?” is centering because it calls us to establish value.
Near my desk right now is a simple piece of white paper, cut in a square, with my priorities tastefully displayed. My pattern is to type on this sheet 3-5 personal and professional priorities.
The seven items on that list are what is important to me and receive more of my effort than any other things. They go higher on my to-do list, they get the best of my energy, and I align my finances with them:
- chase God
- be holy
- help others
- make progress
- trust my curiosity
- live simply
- develop church leaders
Having established priorities by asking the question, "is it important?" we now move on to the question of timeliness, "is it urgent?"
Priorities answer the what question, to-do lists answer the when question.
Write your to-do list in bite-sized tasks.
My to-do list used to consist of large tasks like "write tactics calendar for next FY." Tasks this large are intimidating and fight against productivity. Now my lists include outrageously small tasks like "create tactics calendar document, and save."
Listing in this way takes more time in planning but increases your attention to detail and gives better direction when actually following through. These tasks will lessen your likelihood of procrastination.
When priorities are clear and tasks achievable, the disciplined life is within grasp.