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  • Writer's pictureAndy Robinson

Threads, Ropes, and Cables

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There’s no doubt that we live in a world of constant, relentless, distraction and “noise” — an ongoing barrage that swirls around us like a whirlwind … getting in our way of focusing on the most important activities of the day (assuming those important things have been clearly identified by us).

Everything we do, every minute of the day is a CHOICE, and we are free to make those choices in whatever manner we please. So, if distractions, favor requests, and “swirling little things” are impeding our progress and diluting our focus on the important things in our life, we are CHOOSING to allow that to happen (yes, the responsibility is OURS. Period.).

Fixing or improving our focus and stepping out of the whirlwind of distraction and noise requires, first, that we are crystal clear on what we should be spending our time on … our most valuable activities … those essential activities that drive the accomplishment of our key goals (assuming we are clear on those goals).

Once we are clear, we can then make better choices on how we spend our time and what we focus on. In making those choices, I’ll offer the following metaphorical framework, which I’ve used in helping organizations eliminate “mission creep” and stay the course in alignment with their organizational vision and mission.

Thread, Rope, or Cable?

BEFORE you begin something or when evaluating a future activity you either intend to schedule on your calendar or put on your “to-do” list, ask yourself if the activity is a “thread,” a “rope” or a “cable.”

  • Thread - The activity has absolutely no bearing on or relationship to any of your key goals or most valuable activities — it may relate to someone else’s key goals or priority — but NOT YOURS

  • It should be deflected, avoided, and/or eliminated

  • Rope - The activity is indirectly related to a goal or most valuable activity and probably needs to be done by SOMEONE, but not by you, and NOT NOW

  • It could be added to your to-do list to consider later, or, even better

  • It could be delegated to someone who has a goal or most valuable activity directly related to it

  • Cable - The activity is DIRECTLY related (without question) to one or more of your most valuable activities and key goals

  • It should be scheduled on your calendar, or

  • Added to your to-do list as a priority item with a due date, or

  • It should be done immediately if urgent (and, by definition as a “cable,” important)

Before you SAY YES to anything: An activity, a new commitment, a decision, or something that “sounds interesting” … Use the “Thread, Rope, or Cable?” framework to make a more informed choice and avoid the resentment that ultimately creeps in when you say yes to threads and ropes.

Cut your threads.

Tie your ropes to a future date for reconsideration or to another person, and …

Secure your cables to your calendar or to-do list (or act immediately on them).

Andy Robinson, Executive Coach



"Helping CEO's and executives maximize their influence and impact."


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