Finding Your Five Most Important Things (MITs)
I recently took a walk on the beach with the owner of a mid-size company. During our time together, she made a comment about having so many things to do that she did not know what to prioritize or where to start. We stopped and I asked her, “If we are here taking a walk 12 months from now, what is the most important thing – MIT – that you would have to have accomplished to feel your year was amazingly successful?”
Once she answered that question, I said, “Great, now take a deep breath and exhale. We are here a year from now and you have accomplished that single thing. What is the second MIT you need to accomplish in the next 12 months for an amazingly successful year?”
Wash, rinse and repeat three more times.
She now had five MITs for 2021. Couple that with a focused SWOT analysis and she will have done more business planning than 90% of her competitors.
How Your Amygdala Impacts Your Best Thinking
Have you ever left a meeting only to have a great thought or additional insight five minutes later? This happens because your amygdala, the part of your brain responsible for the fight, flight or freeze response, bathed your frontal lobe in dopamine, precluding your best thinking during the meeting itself.
The same applies to making decisions, so it is important to take a deep breath and exhale before moving between each MIT to signal to your reptilian brain that you’re fine and everything is under control. You may feel yourself relax and the stress drain from your shoulders. So, before you move from one MIT to the next, take a deep breath and exhale.
Differentiating Strategies from Goals and Objectives
Now, after you’ve come up with three to five MITs, before you move on, review each of them and ask yourself, “Why? What is the result I want to achieve?” Really consider if each MIT is the result you desire or a just a tactic aiming to achieve a higher result. Drill down until you have identified the true MIT, and then you can consider your original item a strategy or tactic to achieve it. We often mistake strategies for goals and objectives.
Continue the process by breaking each of these goals into quarterly deliverables, then breaking those into monthly deliverables and the monthly into weekly deliverable tasks. Assign a person to be responsible for the desired result at each stage and set a due date for each. Review the MITs in your weekly and monthly staff meetings; there should be no surprises at the monthly meetings as corrective actions need to be identified during the weekly meetings.
During your quarterly meetings, review the MITs – are they still valid or do you need to adjust? Has there been anything that might mean you need to pivot? For example, in March of 2020, everyone’s MITS changed. If they didn’t, I would bet they are no longer in business.
After that, you can determine the deliverables for the next quarter, month and week. Again, review the progress weekly.
I learned to do this during my corporate career. Then I read more about this in Verne Harnish’s classic Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. I now work with entrepreneurs, CEOs and owners of small and middle market companies, teaching them how to achieve the success they deserve. Download my Focus, MITs and Priorities worksheet and let me know how I can help you set your MITs.