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Before you can lead others, you must manage yourself.  You need to keep yourself motivated, create focus, and clear the way for results. Only then, can you credibly and effectively inspire and guide others.

1. Recognize three accomplishments.

What’s working?  You can’t recognize and inspire others without motivating yourself. Think of three accomplishments or things that are going well.

Many busy people keep looking at the pile of work before them without taking the time to appreciate what they and their organizations have achieved.  Max, a key executive in a Fortune 500 company, could never relax. No matter how hard he worked, the stack of projects and things he wanted to achieve grew larger. Exhausted and discouraged, Max hit bottom. “I just can’t go on like this,” he lamented.

Max had drained his battery. He failed to step back, recognize the progress made, and recharge his energy and enthusiasm. Once Max listed three recent accomplishments, his outlook brightened, “Hey, I guess we have made significant gains and can build on them.”

2. Focus on three priorities.

Max’s mind had become like a computer with too many applications open at the same time. Juggling many priorities, his progress on everything slowed down to a crawl. While he felt proud of his multi-tasking, Max simply wore himself out. What’s more, it sent confusing messages to his team about what was important.

The solution for Max was to pick three top priorities. He chose a mix of a near-term project with high prospects for return, coaching two new executives to expand his firm’s leadership capacity, and a new strategic initiative. Max carved out quality time on his schedule to give focused attention to each of these priorities. Within one week, Max reported, “Wow, I’m really getting traction on what’s important and feeling better about what I’m doing.”

Pick your top three priorities and target time to accomplish them. Be ruthless in defending your schedule against the many alluring distractions that can derail you.

3. Drop, delegate or delay three things.

Max couldn’t get time to focus on his three priorities until he jettisoned things from his overburdened to-do list. That’s why most managers lag in accomplishing their critical objectives. They don’t make room for them.

Pick three things to drop.  If you feel that you can’t drop something, then find someone to whom you can delegate it. If you can’t delegate it, then delay it until you can find someone.

It’s never easy to let go of something. We become invested in our projects and don’t want to miss opportunities.  Yet, we must free up our overloaded minds and schedules. Review your to-do’s with a co-worker, spouse, or friend.  Often, simply talking aloud will free up your thinking. Ask him or her to help you look at what you’re doing with a fresh perspective.

Get a grip on yourself—your accomplishments, priorities, and items to unload. You’ll boost your effectiveness and be a good role model for others.

About Don Maruska

As a founder and CEO of three Silicon Valley companies, venture investor, and recipient of the National Innovators Award, Don writes, speaks, and coaches from a broad base of experience » Learn More

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