How many of us keep pace day to day, upholding our obligations to our bosses, families, and the community, even as our overall satisfaction with work and quality of life decline? And yet, our common response to the situation is: "I'm too busy to do anything about it now." Unfortunately, unless a personal or professional crisis strikes, very few of us step back, take stock of our day-to-day actions, and make a change. In this article, London Business School strategy professors Donald Sull and Dominic Houlder examine the reasons why a gap often exists between the things we value most and the ways we actually spend our time, money, and attention. They also suggest a practical approach to managing the gap. The framework they propose is based on their study of organizational commitments--the investments, promises, and contracts made today that bind companies to a future course of action. Such commitments can prevent organizations from responding effectively to change. A similar logic applies to personal commitments--the day-to-day decisions we make about how we allocate our precious resources. These decisions are individually small and, therefore, easy to lose sight of. When we do, a gap can develop between our commitments and our convictions. Sull and Houlder make no value judgments about the content of personal commitments; they've devised a somewhat dispassionate tool to help you take a thorough inventory of what matters to you most. It involves listing your most important values and assigning to each a percentage of your annual salary, the hours out of your week, and the amount of energy you devote. Using this exercise, you should be able to identity big gaps--stated values that receive little or none of your scarce resources or a single value that sucks a disproportionate share of resources--and change your allocations accordingly. INSET: What Matters Most: A Work Sheet.
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