Today’s Morning Buzz is brought to you by Zach Ratkai, Administrative and Community Services Director for the City of Pasco, Washington and founder of Sageland Strategic, a strategic planning, facilitation, and advancement coaching firm on the side. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
What I am reading: All the Wild that Remains by David Gessner (a travelogue and anthology of my two favorite western writers, Edward Abbey and Wallace Stegner)
What I am watching: NOT watching the NHL or NBA playoffs…
What I am Listening to: alternating days between Joe Rogan and Radiolab Podcasts. Need to find some new tunes.
The Pandemic has brought many things to the world. Some of it decidedly tragic, while for some it has brought a pause on life, or at least a momentary reduction in schedule. While I and my family have been fortunate health-wise during this, I feel for those who have not. These are unprecedented times, but they are also opportunistic. Taking this time to reflect and change, refocus and (for some) recharge, is an opportunity for all of us.
Over this Memorial Day weekend, as well as during the pandemic, I have put a fair amount of my spare time into personal development and projects around the house. While I have gotten much done at the house, my work life has not really changed; in fact, my professional life has grown.
My job for the City of Pasco is essentially running a number of divisions for the city: IT, City Clerks, part of Municipal Court, Parks Recreation, and Facilities, our real estate programs, property insurance, and now Covid related teams: facilities and vehicle de-contamination, temporary lodging programs, and reopening city hall and re-integrating staff. On top of that, I am starting a side hustle and helping a friend’s consulting firm, Sbrand, on some strategic planning facilitation this summer.
Professionally, I and my team in Pasco shifted focus to Covid in early March, helping to set up the city and the staff to work remotely and leading a task force for facilities preparation and maintenance. After a couple weeks of uncertainty and after ramping up some pandemic-related programs, my regular schedule of projects began surfacing again, along with my old habits.
I would look at my daily schedule, my email list, and notebooks and would just freeze. Trying to stay on task, I would do a little bit of one project, then pivot to another. Address an email or phone call that came in, then help a staff member stopping by the office. Meanwhile my list would grow and grow. I tried planners, white boards, and lists. I found I would write things down on the list and then not refer to it to cross things off. The piles would grow, the clutter of my desk (and my mind) would rise, and finally something had to give.
Soon after, a random Instagram post popped up: a page from Jocko Willink’s Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual entitled perfectly: “Overwealmed.” Without going into the main militaristic roots of the direction provided, it essentially encompassed the words I needed to hear:
Prioritize and Execute.
I had read that page before, I read all of Willink’s books. I even Tweeted the topic a year before, but for some reason, it sunk deeper this time.
That’s when I began to think… stop… minimize… work on one project at a time.
Block time off and defend your workflow.
I immediately went to my lists. I taped off my board in the office with the Eisenhower Matrix and prioritized projects. Then I went to executing the low hanging fruit- the projects I could pass off to staff, the quick tasks I could do immediately (I call this clearing cobwebs). What could I plan to have done within the week? Also… and this was big for me… I needed to solidify the productive mindset of “if it can be done in the next minute, just do it!” (Productivity, baby!)
You know what? By starting this, it built some good momentum. I was leaving City Hall at the end of the day more refreshed and energized. I worked hard, took care of business, but still felt accomplished. And the biggest thing?
STUFF. GOT. DONE.
Planning is important, but execution is essential. Prioritize and Execute, have the discipline to follow through, and empower your staff to help. It not only is essential now during the Pandemic when we are called to serve our communities even more, but it is essential in serving ouir communities at all times… especially when resources and abundance are lacking. .
The next couple years will be hard on Local Government… empower yourself to be the best. Prioritze and execute.