Have too much to do? You're doing to much

I found myself giving that advice last week at the ASAE Finance, HR, and Business Operations Conference. I was part of a presentation called “The Adaptive CFO” (along with Charlie Tate of Tate and Tyron and Joe Janela, the CFO at the American Pharmacists Association) and my part of the presentation was to cover how CFOs can support the organizational change that is inevitable in today’s fast-paced, social media world. Before my part, Joe was talking about how today’s CFO needs to be a liaison to many different parts of the organization (board, CEO, senior management team, staff, etc.).

During the Q&A, someone asked about how to balance all that–obviously the CFO was being asked to do a lot of things and provide service to lots of parts of the organization. My answer was unintentionally pithy:

If you find you’ve got too much to do, then you’re probably doing too much.

The more we make things OUR responsibility, the more impossible it gets. This challenge is not the sole domain of CFOs. We’re all being called upon to do too much. I see it in just about everyone I know. I’m not sure I want to speculate on the causes, but this blog post about the “responsiveness trap” touches some nerves for me. Maybe it’s our “always connected” world. Maybe we’ve all got ADD now. I don’t know. But we’re trying to do too much. We go to conferences and learn new things we’re supposed to be paying attention to, and we start to have a nervous breakdown because there’s no more room for these new ideas. We’re already full.

The only answer I could come up with was to spend some time getting clear. Clarity is my new mantra these days. Having too much to do, I think, is simply a case of not being clear on what needs to get done, versus what would be nice to get done. Maybe that determination–that complicated cost/benefit analysis that distinguishes between “must have” and “nice to have,” is more difficult these days because the world is so complex. If that’s the case, then so be it. It is what it is. So let’s embrace our challenge and start determining what is important, and then go do those things. And let the rest wait. Or delegate it. Or tell people it’s not going to happen.

This isn’t just simple to-do list management. The clarity is hard work. Because as you think about it, I know it’s ALL going to sound important. And technology has made everything SO easy, we feel like we can do it all. But we can’t. We need to choose, and we need to do the important things, which requires that we know what’s important and why.

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