Over the Easter break I rode in a 112km sportive (essentially a long bike ride). These rides are typically well organised, marshalled and sign-posted. And while not a ‘race’ per se, they are set up with the incentive of placing in a gold, silver or bronze category depending on your time.
You’re given a map of the course in advance, and a sheet of directions to take with you should you need it. Along the course are sign-posted arrows to keep you on track and advise of changes in direction.
Aiming for silver status, my goal was clear. All I had to do was follow the arrows and maintain a certain speed. In other words, stay focused and on track.
Halfway into the course everything was ticking like clockwork. I was focusing on maintaining progress, and the arrows seemed to pop up at just the right time to let me know I was well on course and could carry on at full speed.
….until I arrived at a junction with no arrow to point the way. What happened? Did I miss an arrow, or two, or three, or six?
I checked the directions sheet and realised I must have strayed off course. After some time re-grouping and backtracking I did manage to rejoin the route and get to the finish line, but I was slowed down considerably. It took significantly longer in the end, and I cycled further than necessary. No silver. No bronze. Just late and exhausted.
Later I would learn that some of the arrows had actually been stolen! While this was a relief that I wasn’t completely oblivious (or crazy for that matter), I realised how easily it happened. Even if the arrows had been intact, a distraction or a moment of mind-drift could swiftly lead anyone off-piste.
How often does this happen in our businesses? You think you’re making steady progress then suddenly you realise targets aren’t met and you wonder what happened, how and when.
When our goals and targets are clear, and we have a plan to get us there, we can purposefully forge ahead. But along the way it’s important that we track our progress and make sure we’re still on the right path. Yes, sometimes circumstances shift and change, and we either need to adjust our course or re-adjust the goal.
The crucial element is maintaining focus.
We’re constantly bombarded by distractions, requests, opportunities, and other demands on our time. If we’re not paying attention, these interruptions can rapidly slow our pace and cause us to miss our marks. Regular reviews and verifying our activity against our daily, weekly and monthly plans help keep us focused on the finish line.
When we follow our plans closely, there is less room for unnecessary delays and extra work.
Stay focused, stay on track, get there faster!
On the bright side, I may have missed a few arrows, but at least I didn’t miss cake and tea at the feed station –