Why do we always want what we don’t have?
Sometimes you may feel life is passing by and you are missing out. It is true, the grass may sometimes look greener on the other side.
Then we get to the other side and it is not as good as we thought it was. Much like thinking that everything will get better during the weekend or summer vacations. How can we avoid this cycle?
The first step is to set a PRIORITY instead of priorities. You can take a closer look at the process of setting a priority, to make better decisions and have better time-management, by clicking here.
Yet, that is only the first step because having a priority will not solve all your decision-making challenges. After taking that first step is when you must take a closer look at how you are perceiving things around you.
A great couple of questions that can help you create a different perspective when making decisions, are the following:
- Do I need it or do I want it?
- Do I have to do it or do I want to do it?
It can be tricky to choose between wants and needs. Therefore, setting a priority is key to start making better decisions and making the most out of your time.
If you decided advancing your career is your priority, then volunteering for extra-curricular projects and attending networking events is something you may not want to do but you must do.
On the other hand, binge watching that TV series everyone’s been recommending you may be something you want to do but you don’t have to do it to advance your career.
I am not saying that you should only do activities in line with your priority and nothing else will matter. Yet, you must first use your time and focus on the activities that you must do to have time to do what you want to do.
Entertainment and relaxing is a big part of being at the top of your game, just be sure that it is adding value to your professional growth instead of being in the way of it.
Let’s now take a closer look into the process of differentiating Musts and Wants so that you can start taking action to advance your career.
Must, Should, or Want?
It’s been proven that even people who usually do good, so-called “good Samaritans”, can be evil If they feel they don’t have enough time.
The study was conducted in Princeton, at a Theological Seminary. The students completed a questionnaire and then were told to go to another building to give a speech about the parable of the Good Samaritan. The participants were told they had to hurry (some of them were told they were already running late for the speech).
On their way to the other building, they would find a woman that was clearly screaming in pain and needed help. Since they were giving a speech about the Good Samaritan they should at least be one, right? WRONG!
Only 10%, of those that were told they were late, stopped and helped. On the other hand, 63% of the ones that were in a “low hurry” situation stopped and helped.
This means that 1) Knowing what you need to do, or should do, is not enough to make you act and 2) When you are running late, or don’t have enough time, 90% of the time you will behave totally opposite to your values and beliefs (road rage, saying something mean, etc.).
You can hear the full story, told by Dr. Phil Zimbardo, in one of the latest episodes of the Tim Ferriss Show Podcast.
Do you see why good time management is so important?
So, now we are 100% that we need to improve our time-management skills. Yet, as we’ve seen thanks to the study, knowing what we must do doesn’t mean we will do it. This is why I want to share with you something that has worked for me and allowed me to accomplish all these things.
I have no doubt that if you implement it your efficiency and efficacy will increase.
This is what I call the “Must, Should, Want” framework:
You will always be able to classify any activity into these categories.
- Must: Anything that must be done NOW because there is a deadline and it is also in line with your goals or priority (see why having a PRIORITY is important here).
- Should: Any activity that can help you get closer to your goals but is not a Must yet because it’s not close to the deadline.
- Want: Anything else that you feel like doing but it is not necessarily related to your goal or priority.
Ideally, the Must list should be empty or with only one or two things. Proper time management and planning will allow you to do so.
Usually, I plan to finish every project at least 5 days before the deadline. This way I have a buffer for any unexpected events, I have time to edit, time to ask for feedback, etc.
Most of my projects are part of the Should list, and I break them down into steps. Let’s use the example of any stock analysis we must do for the Cougar Investment Fund. The goal is to have an analysis with a Business Summary, a Valuation Model with quantitative support, and a Summary with an investment recommendation. Some of the activities that Must be done for this analysis are:
- Reading the 10-K of the company we are analyzing
- Reading the 10-K of the top competitors
- Reading Industry Reports
- Inputting the lasts financial data into the model
- Finding fundamental economic variables that can explain the growth and profitability of the company
- Presenting the model to the team, in different stages, to receive feedback
Some of these activities are on a schedule and can only be done at that time. Initially, all are a Should, and they would become a Must when the deadline gets closer. Ideally, the task is done before it becomes a Must.
The key is to make a detailed plan to handle the Should list. Even when the analysis is due in 1 month yet, I could already start acting.
I plan to read the different 10-Ks, Industry Reports, etc. Having a schedule for all of these steps will allow you to have a sense of urgency because the Shoulds become a Must within your plan.
Then we also have the Wants. These can be taking a nap, watching a movie, going to a bar with some friends to watch sports, etc.
You should only do Wants if you have no activities in your Must list and you have already tackled several of your Should activities.
The beauty is that this disciplined approach might seem too strict (because you might not always be able to watch TV or go out with friends), but will give you freedom.
If you get a late invitation to an event, or another opportunity comes up, and you have many things that you must do for tomorrow then you will have to say no.
Let’s say you get invited to a dinner with the Mayor of Houston but only with a couple of hours of notice. If you have a couple of exams and a project due tomorrow (these would be a Must at that point) you will have to say no to that amazing opportunity.
If you have the discipline to always work on your Shoulds, to have no Musts, then you will always have the freedom to say Yes to any great opportunity that shows up.
Keep in mind that in this example the PRIORITY is career advancement. If your priority is building better relationships with family and friends then activities such as get-togethers, going out and going to birthday parties, become the Musts and Shoulds.
Discipline doesn’t mean not having fun. Using this framework will let you organize your time and align it with your goals, whatever that might be.
Be a Good Samaritan
Do the right thing for your goals, even when nobody is looking and you don’t feel like it. That is probably when it matters the most.
So far we’ve covered how to set a priority and how to take action to accomplish the goals related to that priority. This will allow us to advance our careers or do anything that we decide. Just remember that we can do anything, but not everything.
If you’ve found this information valuable then be a Good Samaritan and share it so that others can benefit from it.
Also, as we’ve mentioned before, being clear about what you want to do is key. Sometimes we might feel we are just doing what we are “supposed to do” instead of doing what we actually enjoy doing.
Identifying your purpose, as corny as it sounds, is the first step to building a career you can enjoy.
BizLatte has created a Free e-guide for you so that you can start taking action to take your career to the next level: