“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.” – C. JoyBell C.
To choose your battles means to be selective of the problems, arguments, and confrontations that you get involved in. Instead of fighting every problem, you save your time only for the things that matter. This means fighting the most important battles and letting go of the rest.
Our priorities determine which issues are the most important and thus what battle we choose to fight and which ones to let go. In other words, our priorities will tell us how to use our time effectively. Or do they?
Very often people say that they need more time to do what they need to do, to complete their assignment, or even to take time off. Well, nobody is going to get more time. There are only twenty-four hours in a day and that is it. No matter what you do, you will not get more today or tomorrow.
So, time is precious indeed and needs to be handled with care or managed so to speak. We need to realise though that time management has nothing to do with the clock. The clock will keep on ticking. That is a fact. Time management instead has everything to do with the way we organize and control our activities. We cannot save time, lose time, turn back the clock or have more time tomorrow than today. Time is unemotional and uncontrolled. It moves forward regardless of circumstances and in life creates a level playing field for everyone. So, since we cannot change time, we must instead change our approach to it.
Very often I find myself very busy trying to get things done. And I am not alone. We run around here and there and join the rat race from morning to night, just to find ourselves exhausted and not satisfied that we have done enough or that we have done what was most important. And so, we continue to work later, and during the weekend, forgetting to spend quality time with the ones closest to us, our family and friends. A very important gift is therefore to be able to choose our battles wisely and leave unimportant things undone. You see, we can do and have anything we want but we cannot do and have everything we want. We need to make choices. We need to do the right things and do them right. The rest we must learn to let go. So, the biggest challenge we face is to know what battles to choose and what are the right things to do. Next, to make sure that we actually do them, instead of being side-tracked by other issues that come our way, very often other people’s issues. The reason why most goals are not achieved or why projects are not completed in time is because time is spent to do second things first. While most of us know deep inside what really needs to be done, we are often caught by a thousand other issues that come our way from the moment we wake up and get ready to go to work. Chances are that before even leaving the house we received one or two telephone calls, distracting us from what really needs to be done. Interestingly enough, it is other people that distract us and make us do other things, most probably their things. But even our own desires can be so diverse, and our attention can be so scattered that we often are not sure what should get our attention. That is why we need to focus. To be successful, we cannot just run on the fast track. No, we need to run on our own track. People who reach their potential and fulfil their dreams determine and act on their priorities, every day.
So how do we do that? Here is where planning our time comes in. Pilots plan their flight, including a plan B should things go wrong, and then they fly their plan. Scuba divers plan their dive and then they dive their plan. Should things go wrong underwater, they also follow protocols to deal with the issue at hand. Interesting enough, in both examples the plans are made by teams of two: the captain and co-pilot and in the case of scuba diving, the dive buddies. These principles can be applied in managing our business, organization and life. In other words: “Plan your life, live your plan.” And you will find that you will only be able to do this effectively when you have clearly defined your objectives, while your values provide a useful compass on the way. Next comes to actually stick to your plan and carry it out. This sounds simple but is probably one of the most difficult things to do as we are often taken off track by unimportant issues and urgencies, giving us a feeling of accomplishment (“I have been so busy.”) but turning out to be time wasters instead. In other words, prioritise and a simple way of doing this is to sit down a few minutes and list down the most important things that need to be done, prioritise them and begin working on them one by one until completed. Don’t worry if you have finished only one or two at the end of the day but instead be confident that you have been working on the most important issues. A survey carried out by Day Timers Inc. in America showed that only one third of workers plan their daily schedules and that only 9% follow through and complete what they planned. What results would a similar survey show amongst us here? The German novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said: ”Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” If you prioritize your life and plan your day but don’t follow through, your results will be the same as those of someone who didn’t prioritize at all. Now evaluate yourself and think again.
Now that you know what it is that needs to be done and now that you actually begin working on the most important issues, you may find out that you cannot do it all by yourself. This is when effective delegation comes in, which most of us find very difficult to do. We need to realize however that we cannot do everything ourselves and that while we work on our priorities, routine tasks need to continue. More often than not, we have difficulties to let go and trust others to do what we normally do ourselves. A guideline that John C. Maxwell suggests is that if someone else can do a task 80 percent as well as yourself, hand it off. And if you do a good job of motivating, encouraging and rewarding, that person will only get better and in the end may even be doing a better job than you could yourself. Such people are so valuable because they now begin to allow you to work on your priorities.
One more thing to realise is that every day we are surrounded by other people we spent much time relating to. This is no less important in this country where relationships are so valued. But are we spending time with the right people? People, who can take us to another level, who help us to move forward? Or are we spending time with people who instead take us back and distract us from what we should be doing? So, while you want to treat everyone with respect and try and have a good, positive relationship with everyone, you should not be spending time with everyone equally.
Choose your battles wisely!
“Today Matters” by John C. Maxwell