What Matters at Work?
What matters now? It’s my favourite question. Indeed, I love the question so much that it’s the title of the book I wrote a few years back -- What Matters Now: Lessons on Living at Ease (available on amazon and yes, that’s a shameless plug).
For a very long time now, I’ve held this question up as the barometer by which I gauge how well I’m living and navigating the world that is my life. When folks read my book, they generally share that they find the content helpful in evaluating their own lives. And, I want to use this space to make something crystal-clear: asking yourself what matters isn’t limited to your personal world. The question matters at work as much as anywhere else.
So, when you think about your work and your role within your work, what’s your answer to the question of what matters? If you don’t know, I want you to take a minute right now and figure it out. Because understanding what matters is what allows you to prioritize your professional responsibilities. If you don’t know what matters in your role, inevitably you’ll find yourself doing things that don’t matter, or more importantly that don’t matter TO YOU.
Knowing and understanding what matters is the key to your ability to set appropriate boundaries. When you know what matters, and someone asks you to take on a new task, you can quickly determine whether you can agree to the request or not. When you know what matters, you know what you can delegate and what you actually need to do yourself. When you know what matters, you can better ensure that you don’t overextend yourself.
I know; sometimes the things that matter are forever shifting. What matters right now may or may not matter in two hours. Or, it might still matter but drop down on the priority list. I get it. But that doesn’t mean that you should avoid asking and answering the question. If anything, that makes it imperative that you hold the question more often, so that you can always have your finger on the pulse of how the things that matter are shifting, if they’re shifting at all.
Once you’ve clearly named what matters to you, now it’s time to take stock. If, for example, you’ve identified that being available to your team is what matters in your work, take a look at how available you actually are. Is your door open, more often than not? Or are you in never-ending meetings? Do folks struggle to find you as you tend to the various responsibilities you hold? What do you need to do or change to ensure that you are honouring your desire to be available?
Here’s another example: if you identify that the ability to be organized is something that matters to you, how organized is your workspace? By looking at your office, would folks be able to say that you are someone for whom organization matters? If not, what needs to change?
You see, it’s not enough to SAY that something matters to you; you have to actually live and work in such a way that exemplifies its importance. So, decide what matters based on what’s true for you, and not based on what the world around you might have you believe, or what sounds trendy and buzz-word-worthy.
The bottom-line is this: if you want to be effective at work, at home, and everywhere in between, you’ve got to know what matters. In a world that invites us to find fulfillment, it can be tempting to focus on what matters in our personal lives -- but our professional lives must hold up to the same scrutiny. Ask yourself what matters at work, as much as you do at home. And then, make the choices that clearly reflect the things that matter to you.