Both – or the Underly Deceit of Focus

As I write this, I’m slowly, steadily, recovering from a running injury. Pain so bad in my right knee that it’s painful to walk and stand. A visit to the sports chiropractor diagnosed the problem as a lack of flexibility in my left hip. The right-side of my body continually compensated for this lack of flexibility, and boom, knee pain. 
The sports doc said we could simply focus my recovery efforts on increasing my hip flexibility and eventually the immediate knee pain will subside enough to comfortably run again. Conversely, just relieving my short-term knee pain today means it’ll return tomorrow and the day after. In the interest of getting me running pain-free sooner rather than later, we’re going to work on Both.

In my conversations with leadership, I find some leaders have their focus on the distant horizon – 18 months out or further. Others are completely swallowed up by the weeds of day-to-day operations. Each neglecting the other horizon. There are a few, like my sports doc, that know the most sustainable results come from simultaneously working the short- & long-term horizons. In fact, working both simultaneously is the only way to make the long-term goals stick and the day-to-day tolerable. 

Both isn’t just in our business lives as leaders. 

Both is in our lives as a whole. 

Each day we need to fuel and rest. These day-to-day operations needs may crowd out hours achieving our long-term goals, yet without food & sleep we’re in no condition to work. We have dreams and we need groceries. Both. 

As I wrote in Rebuilding Blocks:

“Laundry, groceries, housekeeping, commutes, errands, entertainment, the constant maintenance of banality—all short game. Yes, they can bring a lot of joy and drama to our lives. Yes, not taking care of them appropriately and effectively makes achieving our intended goals more tenuous—that’s the definition of short game. The long game: satisfying relationships with family and friends, meaningful work, fulfilling avocations—these things take decades to achieve. These things require persistence, discretionary time, and time free of short game.”

The underlying deceit of advocating a singular focus to improve productivity overlooks our world of Both. Our brains find periods of intense, challenging work satisfying. Our brains also thrive on periods of downtime, enjoying some degree of boredom on a regular basis, not to mention sleep. Both

Both is the person laying the foundation for their new business while still a full-time employee. Both is knowing that your next opportunity may be at your current company – or not. 

The small day-to-day tasks – the things that we’re currently using as an excuse is for not moving forward on the big, meaningful, long-term work – will persist and multiply if we allow it.

Worse, executing superbly on them doesn’t prevent them from returning (e.g. relieving my knee pain). Done is temporary. Nor does small stuff provide any leverage with the big stuff (e.g. solving my knee pain doesn’t fix my underlying body mechanics problem). Conversely, an amazing 18-month strategy is meaningless if it can’t be supported by day-to-day operations (Oh, did I mention I’m registered for another marathon and I can barely run one mile). This is why Both.

Take a look at your agenda for next week.

Does it have more of a short-term or more of a long-term horizon?

Which horizon, if you dedicated just 60 minutes to improving could you improve? 

Schedule that today.