In my experience, many of our seemingly complex challenges can be distilled down to basics. We consult trusted advisors and mentors to tell us the obvious.  Chances are the solution recommended will be straightforward, and we ask “Why didn’t I see that?” and the answer will be because we were too busy, distracted, too close to the issue, or maybe not fully confident in ourselves.

This is nicely illustrated  by Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix (shown here by Sid Savara) from his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.  The reason we don’t see the simple answers is we are often consumed by the “urgent”  items (quadrants 1 & 3) and dawdle on time-wasters or “mental chewing gum” (quadrant 4). Our personal and business worlds are consumed by the day to day activity that steals the quantity of time we have, and we do little to proactively improve the quality of  the time we spend.

Legitimately, there are times when our waking hours are consumed with items that are urgent and important (quadrant 1), such as personal health or health of a loved one, or a struggling business facing great risks and challenges.  We can be consumed with just getting by. These are the times to leverage a consultant or coach, whether informally through those you trust and respect, or formally via an advisor or industry expert.

However, we can proactively circumvent these times by paying attention to the important things as Covey discusses. If we exercise, then we avoid health issues.  If we set up KPI’s for our business and manage to them, we identify trends and risks and can take actions that protect our interests and profitability. If we continue to develop skills and knowledge, we avoid becoming irrelevant in the world of work.

The key for us is to make it a priority to identify and act on the activities that will help improve and sustain the quality of our personal and professional lives, the activities that will “build muscle”, so to speak. Whether that comes through our own thought processes or through the help of others is not particularly relevant.

The thing to remember is to make it a priority to devote time and energy to the activities that will improve the quality of our lives, our businesses, and our relationships with those around us.