My approach to every project I work on and every piece of content I write can be summed up in two words: “purpose first.” This work mantra has served me, and the companies I’ve worked for, well. It’s simple yet profound.
By defining the purpose first, you’re focusing your work (and your mind) on the task at hand. You’re also giving yourself bowling bumpers or lane markers to clarify what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. The purpose becomes the filter you use to decide whether that idea should be included or discarded.
Sometimes developing the purpose first is the kick start you need to tackle a difficult project. Too often people jump right into tasks and tactics before they clarify why they’re even tackling the project in the first place. Project management gurus recommend the same mantra, but with fancier words like “project charter” and “business requirements.”
Take one of my “purpose first” challenges. Use my two-word mantra at an upcoming meeting, while working on a complicated document or to write your next in-depth email.
- Meeting Purpose Challenge – Add the meeting purpose to the top of every agenda. If the discussion strays from the agenda, remind attendees why they’re there by pointing out the purpose. This helps keep everyone focused… especially on those dreaded conference calls.
- Writing Purpose Challenge – Jot down your purpose on a post-it note and stick to the top of your computer screen. As you write, compare the purpose to the topics and ideas you’re recording. Does the information support your purpose or are you wasting time on an unnecessary tangent?
- Email Purpose Challenge – The next time you have to write an email about a complicated or lengthy topic, decide on the purpose first. Your opening sentence or paragraph should clearly state what you’re writing about and what you expect from your reader. Write it as if you fully expect the reader to stop reading after the first few lines. (Most of us only read the first few lines of emails anyway.)
My advice: Formulate the purpose first… forcing your brain to ruminate on what needs to get done now.