I get asked a lot about time management and prioritization.  People are always looking for better ways to figure out how to focus on what’s important and how to eliminate some of the many distractions that suck away time.  I keep coming back to an analogy that my family has used over the years whenever someone has a big decision to make.  After discussing the pro’s and con’s of any given decision, someone will always ask “which way is Bermuda” – which is our way of asking “what’s the bigger goal”.

The Newport to Bermuda race is an annual event where yachtsmen and women come from all over the world to compete in a 3 day ocean race between Newport, Rhode Island and Hamilton, Bermuda. The main strategic obstacle in this race is the Gulf Stream – a broad, warm water ocean current which flows northward along the Atlantic coast.

Over the course of 3 days and nights, the team members sail and navigate the boat in shifts, usually 4 hours on and 4 hours off. On the first night of the race, three of the crew members were hunched over a chart debating the relative merits of taking a tack offshore. They were comparing the weather reports which said that the wind was better further to the east, and the Gulf Stream chart which showed a particular area where the current would be more strongly against them in that area.

As they carried out their discussion, the captain came up on deck. He listened to both sides for a few minutes and then asked the team one question. “Which way is Bermuda?” They gave him a compass heading and he responded “sail towards Bermuda” and went back down below to finish his rest. While the “straight up the middle” approach is not always the appropriate solution, you cannot be successful if you don’t know where you are trying to get to in the first place.  Or, to quote the Cheshire Cat, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there…”

When you find yourself in a situation where you have competing priorities, and need to define a direction for your team,  having a clear vision of your larger personal and organizational goals will help you decide what to do first.  The more clear your team’s vision and mission is, and the more actionable it is, the easier it will be to sort through those choices.

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