A few years ago I stumbled across a strategy that forever changed how I operated my life.
This strategy came from Kate White, the author of my two favorite career books: Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead But Gutsy Girls Do and I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This.
She was also the editor-in-chief of five major U.S. magazines, including Working Woman, Redbook and, for 14 years, Cosmopolitan.
She. Is. A. Badass.
And she’s filled with wisdom that any woman, in any stage of life, can benefit from.
Drain the swamp as you slay the alligators.
It’s not phrase you hear very often — drain the swamp as your slay the alligators — but, it’s a tidbit of advice from White that stuck with me throughout the years.
It’s simple and brilliant … and incredibly difficult to do.
The swamp represents your life and career trajectories. Not the day-to-day details but rather “the big picture.”
The alligators (and gnats and mosquitoes and all that) are all of the urgent tasks that you handle from the moment you rise to the moment you lay your head on the pillow at night. If you’re not careful, these buggers will command most of your time and energy, forcing you into permanent reaction mode. And then, executing big strategies and mapping out a vision for the future takes a back seat … leaving the swamp an overgrown, tangled mess.
When you’re up to your elbows in gnats and alligators, it’s easy to forget that the more important objective: to drain the swamp. Because, without the swamp, there are no alligators or other pesky pests.
If you don’t want to look back on your life and career and wonder what the hell went wrong, you’ve gotta figure out a way to both slay and drain at the same time.
Prioritize Tasks In An Hour With This Simple Weekly Strategy
Find one hour per week.
Personally, I tackle the swamp by carving out time away from the office or home for an hour a week. I never stay at the scene of the crime. I grab a notebook and a coffee, and I step away from my day-to-day environment. This allows for a clearer head, and fresh perspective. I find a spot in the park, at a coffee shop, in Wegmans, or — if I’m really lucky — cozied up with a glass of wine in a comfy booth. (Wine helps.)
Allow yourself the ability to brainstorm.
I have to give myself permission to problem solve and brainstorm. I turn off all distractions and go old school with stream-of-consciousness writing and a notepad and paper, and in return I come up with killer ideas and execution plans during those weekly hours.
Follow your strategy and make weekly adjustments as needed.
The big advantage to utilizing this as a regular strategy is that as the swamp starts draining, the alligators also tend to move off which leaves you with fewer day-to-day crisis to deal with. It’s helpful to have a path to follow, and also to know that next week you have another hour devoted to reprioritizing or adding new goals. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
I stick to my “hour a week” rule fairly religiously, and “draining the swamp” has become a key life strategy for me. It allows me to rise above the urgent everyday needs, solve the big problems, and create a vision for my personal and professional journey.
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