Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • June 25, 2023
  • minute read

Draining The Swamp Part 1 

Listen to Les McKeown read this blog post:

A prerequisite of Predictable Success is to be clearly focused on what gets done, by whom, and when. 

Yet most of us are quite the opposite – drowning in a sea of commitments, to-do lists, black holes and open loops. In short, we all of us  - some more than others - are to some extent wallowing around in our own private, self-constructed swamp.

I’ve been occupied much this week with the issue of ‘draining the swamp’ – getting on top of that paralyzing amount of outstanding work that seems to drain us of energy, enthusiasm and focus.

There’s no use pretending that we can get to Predictable Success in that frame of mind – it’s vitally important that we break the cycle and regain  control of our time and other resources.

"A prerequisite of Predictable Success is to be clearly focused on what gets done, by whom, and when." - Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success

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I have a three-step process I use for myself and in my coaching with other growth leaders. Here's the first step. In later posts I'll cover steps two and three.

Step 1: Stop the Drift >> Only Do What Only You Can Do

To start draining the swamp, begin by this week concentrating on one primary goal, which is:

Re-establishing a laser-like understanding of what your real job is.

When you’re in that swamp of over-commitment and under-delivering, there's a ‘vicious circle’ in play that works like this:

  1. When we’ve got too much on our plate, it (counter-intuitively) becomes harder to accurately and ruthlessly prioritize and differentiate – instead, everything turns in to a gray blur of mish-mashed priorities and unclear responsibilities;

  2. As a result, over time, and without noticing it, we become less and less clear on what exactly our real job is: where our core responsibilities begin and end. Eventually, the distinction between what we 'can do' , what would be ‘good to do’, and what we must do fades, until  eventually;

  3. Those ever-more- dissolving boundaries mean we are less and less able to turn away even more commitments and requests.

So the first step is very clear: Stop the drift by re-establishing a laser-like understanding of what your real job is.

You can do this by applying a simple (but incredibly tough to carry out) litmus test, which is this:

For the next week, only do what only you can do.

Just pause for a moment and sit with that for a bit. Read it a couple more times, and let the underlying concept marinate for a bit.

For just this incoming week, jot down a 1-line (or less) note of every activity, discussion, email or Slack exchange you get involved in - a three- or four-word bullet point inventory of every meeting,  every water-cooler chat, every video call you participate in. 

After a week, take a look at your inventory and ask yourself: how much of it is ‘stuff’ that only you can do? How much of it could be done by someone else? More importantly,  how much of it should be done by someone else?

Use whatever easily accessed recording process works for you – pen and paper; your Notes App or similar; a spreadsheet - just make it light-touch and simple to operate.

A caveat and a rule to help guide the exercise:

Caveat: Your inventory will be incomplete. Of course you're going to miss some things out. So long as you make a decent fist of the exercise, some gaps won't matter.

Rule: When you start analyzing your activities inventory, ‘Everyone else is too busy’ does not in itself make an activity something that ‘only you can do’.

In the next post we'll look at Step 2: how to act on what you'll learn from this exercise, but for now -

What about you? Do you have a laser-like understanding of what your real job is? If not, would this exercise help?

Let Me Know In The Comments Below!


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