My family and I love to visit beautiful Victoria, British Columbia and enjoy the world famous Buskers Festival. The walkways along the waterfront are filled with street performers from all over the world mesmerizing us with their comedy shows and juggling acts, and daring feats from balancing atop high poles to fire throwing.

As leaders in fast paced businesses going 7 days a week, we can often feel like a street performer juggling several balls at once. We have gotten quite savvy at the juggling, but it takes extreme focus and energy to continue with this balancing act. We fear any moment we may not just drop one ball but several.

Does this sound familiar?  In a keynote last month to a room of busy CEOs, I asked the question, “Do you ever find yourself kidnapped by the urgent?  How often do we get to the end of our work day and find that we didn’t get accomplished what we had hoped? Instead we found ourselves constantly interrupted with what seemed to be urgent distractions. If we take the time to look back at these activities that seemed urgent at the time, most often we see that they were not emergencies, but less important distractions.

An exercise that has helped me to remain focused on what is important versus urgent is as follows:

1.  Determine the most important things you need to be working on in your business.

2.  Prioritize what is most important for you to accomplish this week.

3.  List 1-3 critical action items that you will complete today and place this list where it can be easily seen throughout the day.

4.  When interrupted with an urgent request, compare the request with the items on your own action list, and determine what is most important to accomplish right now – the new item, or the items already on your list for the day.  If you find the new item is more important than what you have  slated for your day, then put it first.  However, most of the time you will probably find the “urgent” request really isn’t so urgent and can be completed later.  Another option is to delegate the task.  We can be guilty of taking ownership of requests that really would be better handled by another individual.

5.  At the end of the day, celebrate the accomplishment of completing your list.

Today I will focus on the important, and not allow myself to be kidnapped by the urgent.