Legend has it that Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
In 2017, few of us are worried about how to chop down a tree, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t face challenges. What too many of us overlook is the fact that sometimes, preparation — what Abe would describe as “sharpening the axe” — is the most important part of executing a project.
As an executive coach, I work closely with some of the nation’s top executive teams. On a daily basis, I meet people who are at the top of their game — smart, energetic and visionary. Unfortunately, by the time I am invited in as a consultant, the people I meet are often already in crisis.
Time and time again, what I discover when I enter an organization is exceptional individuals running on empty, because like so many people today, they are spending more time reacting to emergencies than taking time out to prepare for the future. As one workshop participant recently confided, “When I wake up, I’m already at least a week behind, so honestly, there’s just no time for planning.”
Today, we have more demands on our attention than ever before. Whatever the sector, work continues to become more intense and competitive. We’re expected to be multitasking, often all day and all night long, and to have the capacity to process vast amounts of information simultaneously. We’re always on, always processing, and always reacting.
But there’s a cost. Too many of us are living overwired, distracted, exhausted and disengaged, and as a result, it is becoming more and more difficult to focus our precious energy and attention on what matters most — preparation.
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