Abelio is the CMO of a US Fortune 500 company. When his sister was diagnosed with a serious illness, Abelio decided to relocate to Colombia to help her. He had the full support of his CEO and his team for the move. But managing an organization, dealing with his peers and customers across international borders and managing his mostly US-based team remotely left him overwhelmed.
Abelio is not alone. The C-suite executives I coach have a long list of things to worry about, such as board demands, talent losses, competitors and the safety of employees traveling in areas of recent violence, not to mention a full calendar. Teasing out meaningful activities can be tough if stress and fear control your attention and calendar.
Break fear’s grip by leaning into its opposite: joy. I created the Joy vs. Impact Matrix to help executives increase clarity, gain time on their calendars and renew their sense of purpose. Instead of wearing out the snooze button on their alarm to avoid another day of drudgery, they have found fresh energy by maximizing the intersection of joy and impact in their day-to-day work.
When Abelio plotted his main work tasks on the Joy vs. Impact Matrix he had more tasks on the bottom half (low joy) of the matrix than he would have liked. We then brainstormed how he might delegate some of the low-joy/high-impact tasks to team members with high potential who would be eager to take on work that yielded high impact and visibility. Abelio also highlighted some low-joy/low-impact tasks that he could say ‘no’ to taking on, or could delegate to less-experienced team members who might find those tasks more joyful.
Three months later Abelio had carved out time for his sister without creating a backlog of tasks greater than the number of Pokémon Go players in the park outside my office. Those he did delegate to received more recognition for their work, and one of them was on track to soon be promoted.
There was another benefit. Abelio also became clearer about which activities mattered the most. It was time management in an unexpected form. Going forward he had a better sense of where to spend his limited time.
Not everything you do will be high impact and high joy, but by assessing where you spend your time, you can make more deliberate choices. Here are four ways that you can use the Joy vs. Impact Matrix to love what you do while making an impact:
• List tasks you’ve spent most of your time on over the past three months. Which ones give you more joy and which less joy? Which tasks have greater impact and which have lower impact? For example, one executive might think creating end-of-quarter reports for an audit committee meeting is a high-joy/high-impact task, while another executive would find that it sucks the life out of her. Deciding which tasks bring you joy is an individual choice. Even judging impact is relative to specific business or personal goals.
• Assess the big picture. What strikes you when you look at all the tasks plotted on the Joy vs. Impact Matrix? How satisfied are you with the spread of tasks across the four boxes? Abelio noticed too many tasks with low joy regardless of the impact. He worked to reduce the number of low-joy tasks before identifying and spending more time on tasks he did find gratifying.
• Balance the big picture. Too much or too little of any one box isn’t healthy. For instance, if most of your time is spent on high-joy/high-impact tasks, you might burn out from the effort. It might also mean the dull but necessary work of long-term projects isn’t being done. There’s no single way to quantify the ideal number of tasks in each box. The answers depend on your preferences and your portfolio of tasks. Here are some indicators to help you make distinctions:
photo credit: Scott Swigart