“The best laid plans of men and mice….” The Anglicised part of the opening stanza of Robert Burn’s poem very accurately described my week.
I believe in the importance of having both long and short-term goals and a daily action plan to keep on track and make progress in life and business. While they are essential tools, sometimes we just have to let them go for a while and go with the flow of what is happening in our lives. Sometimes, to get clarity and make progress in all areas of our lives, we have to temporarily focus our attention in one specific area, change our priorities for a time.
Last week, I had set a goal of completing the redesign of this blog by improving the header, making the subscription forms more attractive and adding more details about what outcomes I can help people achieve to the home page. That was in addition to two new blog posts and a post each on two of my other blogs and all the other stuff that has to be done, so it was going to be a full week and with hindsight, I was overly optimistic in my planning.
My younger son and his girlfriend arrived from Zimbabwe on the previous Friday, we saw them briefly at my elder son’s house that evening then left them there for the weekend. After collecting them on Sunday evening, my son and I sat up talking until 2: 30 the next morning. We had not seen each other for 6 years and had a lot of catching up to do, as good as Skype and email are, they are poor substitutes for “real” conversations. Catching up on what has happened to our wonderful country was a bittersweet experience. He manages one of the last 200 or so commercial farms still operating out of close to 5000 in the year 2000.
Not being a late night person and with animals demanding attention early every morning, I felt the effects of lack of sleep during Monday. Being aware of how quickly the 4 days with my son and girlfriend would speed by, I tried to alter my plans to accommodate time with him, time to take them shopping, to visit farms and equipment dealers and all the other things they wanted to do. I found it a stressful exercise, when I was with him, I was worrying about the work I wanted to get done, when I took time to attend to some urgent business tasks, I felt guilty about taking time away from my family.
I had an important meeting on Monday evening that could not be postponed. Driving home from that meeting, I realised that I was getting my priorities wrong. After my son left in a few days time, it could be years before I saw him again. I lost out on big chinks of his and his brother’s young lives when I had to spend weeks at a time on military call up in Rhodesia. Later while building a career, I missed too many of their school activities and sports events. Too many evenings working late or at business functions and too many business trips to distant cities and countries took up more time that should have been spent at home with my boys.
On the 20 minute drive home, I decided to put all my business stuff on hold for the next 3 days. I cancelled appointments, advised people that I would be unavailable, abandoned social media and email. I accepted that blog posts would not get written or published and that the redesign would have to wait another week. I spent almost no time in my office for the next 3 days. I felt good. We had a wonderful time together, they got to see all they wanted and more, I stopped worrying about work that was not getting done.
I dropped them off with my elder son on Thursday night so that they could have a few more hours with him and then be taken to the airport. Sad to see them go, but happy that we had filled the few days with good times and not worrying about work left undone.
What were the lessons for me last week?
- Sometimes, we do have to put goals, action plans and to-do lists on hold and just go with the flow of life.
- A disrupted week is not a calamity for most people or businesses.
- We don’t get a second chance to use time spent on the wrong things.
- The course of our lives can be changed in a heartbeat, make the most of time with family today, tomorrow could be too late.
Do you have your priorities right?
Wishing you success.