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Yes or Not Yet? Creating clarity on what matters…

September 02, 2021 9:22 AM | Dena A Culpepper (Administrator)

By Bruce W. Waller

One of the most common things we do to prioritize and stay organized is make lists. Lists are a great way to keep us on track. People make many lists such as grocery lists, project lists, to-do lists, and more. It’s a great way for us to remember the things we need to do each day. It is also a great way to feel like we are accomplishing things by crossing things off the list once completed. In fact, some people like the feeling so much that when they do something and notice it wasn’t on the list, they will write it down just to mark it off to feel that sense of accomplishment! Have you ever done this? I am raising my hand!! And the more we do or more we try to achieve, the more things we will add to our lists. We are constantly trying to keep it up to date so we can stay on track. It can often feel overwhelming when we keep adding to our lists, and often creates challenges to stay focused on the things that matter most.

I recently read a story in the book GRIT by Angela Duckworth talking about the self-made multibillionaire Warren Buffet. She was sharing the story about Warren Buffet’s conversation with his personal pilot. Warren was asking the pilot if he had any bigger dreams that flying him around all over the world. The pilot responded that he did have dreams and Warren shared three things he could do to achieve his dreams. This is a great way to get clarity and focus. Here are the 3 things he shared:

  • 1.      Write down a list of 25 career goals or dreams.
  • 2.      Circle the 5 highest priority goals or dreams for that moment.  
  • 3.      Cross out the other 20 – they are the distractions!

When I read this, it reminded me of my year-end planning, and how I start with a list of goals and narrow it down to my top 3. This year it was to achieve my business plan, design a leadership development program for Texas SHRM, and publish a book. It helps me stay focused and clear on where I spend my time each day. Clarity is the key for us as individuals and for our organizations. It a driving force for success. DallasHR, the 3rd largest SHRM chapter in the country located in Dallas, Texas does this by placing strategic boards in the conference room to help everyone with clarity on long term goals. Armstrong Relocation focuses on four things and shares with all of the operating companies across the US. So, it doesn’t have to be 5 things, it can be less --- it just needs to be clear.

I recently heard a John Maxwell interviewing Jeff Henderson, author of the book FOR on The John Maxwell Podcast where John shared a story about walking into his organization and asking all of the leaders to take out a blank piece of paper and write down what they think the organization is known for. He then picked up the papers with answers and started reading them out loud. He had 12 pieces of paper with 12 different responses. He then said, this is why we can’t get momentum. There was no clarity around the mission or what was most important. So, we are going to list these 12 and narrow it down to what’s most important and focus on that!

So how do get started in our organization? Start by using the exercise that Warren Buffet shared with his pilot. When you have your 5 things, write them down and share for clarity.


Earlier this year, I learned another strategy to help stay focused from author and financial expert David Bach. It’s the “Yes and Not Yet” list. The “yes list” will include the 5 (or 4 or 3) things you decide to focus on and the “not yet list” will capture everything else – a continuous list. The reason to capture the “not yet list” items is that we don’t want to lose the idea,  but know we can’t move anything to the “yes list” until we take something away. It’s a great way to stay focused on our goals and dreams and our everyday. More importantly, it creates clarity when someone asks what we are doing, or when we are trying to decide if we should invest time or decline something to stay on track!

So, what’s your strategy to keep everyone focused with clarity in your organization? It’s time to meet with your team and ask – what are we focused on? See if you get the same answers or if you need to narrow it down for everyone to create more clarity, which create momentum and ultimately lead you to success!

Quote of the Day: “If you are saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?” Michael Bungay Stanier

Call to Action: Take out a blank piece of paper and get your personal top 5… then go to your team of leaders in your organization to create your top 5 for more clarity and watch your organization move forward.  

This blog is written by Bruce Waller, Texas SHRM, Director of Leadership Development! For more information, call 972-389-5673, or email bwaller@goarmstrong.com