How to Dramatically Increase Your Impact and Satisfaction

Reframing Work and Life #6: The Personal Impact Matrix

We would all like our work to be satisfying and meaningful. And to that end, there is an entire industry of books, life coaches, and assessments dedicated to helping people discover what they should really be doing.

The dramatic story you may have read about the individual who quits their job as an accountant to start a non-profit, however, can be a red herring. Such examples blind us to the enormous opportunity you may have smack in front of you—right now, today—to reshape your job and increase both your impact and your personal satisfaction.

Indeed, the search for the perfect job that will finally fulfill us is something of an idol of our modern culture. It’s part of that quest for the “perfect whatever” (perfect apartment, perfect spouse, perfect city to live in, etc.) that will finally make you happy—and which almost never does once you get it.

Here’s a simple framework I developed some years ago that will help you be more effective and fulfilled at your current job. You may, possibly, ultimately need to make a more radical change. But try this first. It has transformed my own work and helped many executives I’ve coached.

Ask yourself two basic questions:

  1. What do I do in my work—or am I capable of doing in it—that adds the most value to others and helps get strong results for me and my organization? (Conversely, what do you do that has the least impact?)
  2. What gets me up in the morning—that is, what do I do in my work that I am most passionate and enthusiastic about? (Conversely, what do I do that I no longer have motivation and passion for?)

Now, using the graphic, below, carefully think about and list all of the main activities in your day-to-day work in the four quadrants.  And also, imagine things you could be doing, within your current job, that aren’t part of your role today.

Here’s what the matrix looks like:

I have gone through this exercise for my own practice once a year for the last five years. It has helped me significantly refocus my time, redirect my company’s strategy, and increase my impact. For example, Digital Learning has become a major platform for me. I got into this business very early on. My first eLearning program was highly successful—and, I realized I truly enjoyed the process of designing and creating digital learning. I recently released a major new program, called Building Relationships that Matter, and am at work on another. But to succeed in this new arena, I had to either stop or reduce other activities—I had to say “no” to some other things I had been doing for a long time, and which were generating significant revenue for my business.

How does it look when you position your own  list of activities on the Personal Impact Matrix?

Next, here’s what you need to do with regard to the activities in each of the quadrants:

The ELIMINATE quadrant

These are activities that add low value and for which you have minimal passion and motivation. Can you:

  • Just stop doing them?
  • Delegate them to someone else?
  • Streamline them?

I guarantee you, there will be a new bounce in your step if you eliminate just one or two things you are doing each week in this quadrant.

 The REFRAME quadrant

Activities in this quadrant pose a special challenge. You’re doing important work here—things that are really adding value. But you’re not very passionate about them.To quote the famous fourth-century monk and theologian, Augustin, you need to “re-order your loves” when you find yourself in this quadrant*. You must discover new joy in these activities. You need to reframe them: The “why” for doing them has to shift from a me-centered motivation to an other-centered motivation. You need to assign them a more transcendent purpose.

The REFOCUS quadrant

These are activities that you really like doing but which don’t add much value. That’s OK if we’re talking about hobbies, or if you are retired, but if you’re still actively working, you need to refocus. For example, bizarrely, I actually enjoy creating PowerPoint graphics. But it’s a pretty low impact activity at this stage in my career. It’s actually difficult to refocus, because humans just have a hard time letting go. Just as individual investors notoriously fail to sell losing stocks in their portfolio, we don’t easily let go of our ingrained habits, especially for activities we enjoy.

If you find it hard to let go of these “Refocus” quadrant activities, sober yourself up by thinking about how many days you have left on Earth. It’s a finite number (hard to argue with that statement!). Whether you believe that number is one thousand or ten thousand or twenty thousand days, ask yourself: Is continuing to spend time on these activities going to help me leave a legacy and really impact the people around me?

 The DOUBLE DOWN quadrant

In this quadrant, in the upper right, you’re doing work you are passionate about—it gets you out of bed in the morning—and you’re creating real value. It doesn’t get much better than this. It is in this quadrant where you eventually want most of your work to take place.

The prescription here is to identify these super-important activities and tasks and then say “No” more often to things in the other quadrants. World-famous investor and Berkshire Hathaway chief Warren Buffet put it this way:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that the really successful ones say ‘No’ to just about everything.”

As a successful person, you will constantly be tempted to dilute your focus. If you’re like me, you’ll come up with interesting ideas and you’ll want to pursue them all. Others will ask you to do things for them or with them. Your boss will pile more and more on your plate—much of which is not central to your Double Down quadrant.

So stay focused on your sweet spot, and do more and more of the things that add great value and which you also enjoy.

In summary—the single idea is this: Reflect on where you uniquely add value and identify what truly gets you out of bed in the morning. Then focus like a laser on it.

You don’t have to ditch your job to find more fulfillment and have greater impact.

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