Reaction Ratio

Think about your typical day. It probably consists of a mix of situations you must react to and actions you set into motion. We have our list of "want to dos" and our list of "must dos."

Let's say you've been meaning to update your website, but suddenly a client calls with some emergency regarding their listing. Most of the time you're forced to react to your client's emergency versus acting on your plans for the day.

Everyday we find ourselves in a battle to keep the urgent from obscuring the important. This is a well-worn cliche of the business world, but it's a cliche because it's true. Sometimes the urgent happens to be important, but more often than not we allow it to dominate our attention.

This week, take stock of how you spend your time and keep a running tally of how many of your tasks are "reactive" versus "active." You could track individual tasks, or simply track the time. Don't be too neurotic about it, but note why you're doing what you're doing throughout the day.

Look at your ratio on a daily basis and ask yourself: What was my mood like today? How did I feel about my work? Did I find satisfaction in this, or did I feel harried or anxious?

While you may not be in total control of the ratio, it can be a sobering exercise to see how much of your time is spent simply reacting to situations instead of investing energy in your goals. The busier you are, the more the reaction side is likely to dominate. You may feel more out of control.

I believe the days when we feel the most satisfaction are those which reach a reasonable balance between the two. Remain mindful of your reaction-to-action ratio. When your mood or motivation flags, see if adding a little action back into the mix doesn't help your attitude.

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Don Truett
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