The Gap? Knowledge and Action

I was reminded this week about how many of our challenges can be summarized by the interaction of knowledge and action. There are two opposing situations that can slow our progress toward success.

1. Action that lacks knowledge. At times our actions don’t generate the right outcome. Afterwards we may learn something that would lead to better actions in the future. Knowledge can come from many sources. Better results can occur just through using the knowledge of other people. If we are taking action but not getting the results we desire, then knowledge and resources can help.

2. Knowledge that lacks action. The second situation is when we know what to do, we just don’t do it. This is also very common. When I exercise first thing in the morning, my day is more productive, and I feel better. Do I exercise first thing every morning? No. There are many reasons, or… excuses. If we have the knowledge but fail to take action, then finding a means of accountability usually helps.

The interaction between knowledge and action can ultimately define our success. As a coach, I help people continually navigate both of these situations. For complex challenges, we experience a fluctuation between both of these situations. On a day when I feel stuck, I find a way to shift my energy to either action or knowledge. This helps me achieve success for the day. What helps you get through these two situations as you go through your week?

Make Today Successful

A friend of mine was recently working on a project and had let the upcoming completion date be a high source of stress. Deadlines can cause stress. Stress can prevent us from achieving the success we desire. My friend eventually worked through their stress and met the deadline for their project. Hidden in her story is a great little lesson.

Do today, what is most important today. If every day you do what is most important, tomorrow will take care of itself. She was able to meet her project deadline because she made a point to get done today the requirements that needed to be done today for the project. Having a longer term plan, but a short term focus can eliminate the stress.

Check your to-do-list. If it looks the same every day, never changing, then do something different. For a week, forget your to-do-list. Instead, define the most important thing (or two or three) to accomplish today. Use this focus to break through the to-do-list stagnation. Build momentum towards a larger goal.

Action is a strong deterrent to stress. I have coached many people that have missed deadlines because they put off taking action. A large project is accomplished through small meaningful actions accumulated over many days. If you can define the action that needs to be done today, and you achieve that action, a large project becomes manageable. If you can take action every day, you will feel the stress fade.

When you think of your biggest goal, what is the action you need to take today?

Don’t Let Perfection Get in the Way

Perfection is defined as reaching the highest attainable standard. In my experience we are sometimes stalled by focusing on perfection. If you have ever delayed taking action because you are afraid that you are not ready or something is not good enough, then you understand how perfection can get in the way of progress. Here are some thoughts on perfection.

1. Don’t confuse perfection and excellence. Excellence requires great results, not perfect results. Release yourself from perfection and create¬† excellence.

2. Action provides the process to change a vision of perfection into something tangible. Any form of perfection, or even excellence, only resides within our mind until we take action. Ideas need to be turned into results which can only happen with action..

3. Mistakes drive improvement. We improve through practice. We learn from mistakes. We can only get better by making the mistakes that provide insight into advancement.

“Perfection belongs to narrated events, not to those we live.” said Primo Levi. Life is messy. Only in our minds can perfection exist, and I don’t want to let it get in my way.

It’s Urgent!

Moving with urgency means being action oriented, fast-paced, and swift. A sense of urgency can positively impact results for individuals and teams. However, the pace is relative based on your own experience and efforts.

As a leader I know an urgent pace for some is more accelerated than for others. It makes creating a sense of urgency a challenge. This week I share some of my thoughts on urgency and urge you to think about how they may affect your results.

1. Reflection. When I reach a milestone, I usually take time to reflect on lessons learned. One of the questions, I ask myself is “how could it have been achieved faster?” I try to determine where the pace was dictated by resources, people, knowledge, or outside influences. This understanding can help future activities, and strengthen the lessons learned.

2. Observation. Since pace is relative, it is important to observe the change of pace. Ideally I would like to see all parts of an activity or project accelerate, but if some area is lacking, it needs closer examination.

3. Results. Urgency should bring results quicker. But you risk increasing errors, or skipping important steps. I have learned that increasing urgency with a team also requires increasing the diligence in monitoring and evaluation of results. Urgency can drive extraordinary results, but only if care is given excellence.

4. Importance. Orrin Woodward said, “When the urgent crowds out the important, people urgently accomplish nothing of value.” Not everything should be urgent. Urgency loses its power if everything needs to be done first. Make only the most important thing urgent.

Urgency can help us become better, but we can also become better at being urgent. Have a great week!