Monday, February 18, 2019

Annual Conference Mode

On the day this posts, my association's Board meeting and Annual Conference will be two short weeks away. This has traditionally been my time to enter what I call my "Annual Conference Mode."

What does that mean? Well, the simple rule I try to start following is that if it isn't related to pulling off a successful Board meeting and Annual Conference, then it's going to wait until after the conference is over.

Like most simple rules, this one is always easier to state than it is to follow. Just because I've made the shift, the world around me hasn't, and there are just as many distractions and competing priorities in my day-to-day existence as there always is. Bowing to this reality, I will usually work on the most pressing and time-sensitive issues for a short time each morning before switching my focus entirely to the tasks that must be done -- and that only I can do -- in order to pull off a successful Board meeting and conference.

I've come to understand that this kind of laser-focus is necessary -- and that it only can happen if I consciously give myself permission to exert it.

Yes, I know they expect a response from me, and yes, I know that this project is already past due, but seriously, if I don't finish and practice this presentation I'm going to make a fool of myself on the Annual Conference stage, and if I don't double check the financial report, I'm not going to have the numbers the Board needs to make intelligent decisions about the future. 

These are the kind of things I tell myself when I enter Annual Conference mode to keep the ever-encroaching demands of the urgent from getting the better of me. Because they will if I let them. Everything that's on my plate is there for a reason, but not everything has to get done today or even tomorrow. And although that conference is still fourteen days away (or thirteen, or twelve, or eleven), if I don't start working on this presentation or this agenda document, I'm going to find myself with a very visible failure on my hands -- one that it may be difficult to recover from.

I think one of the things that surprises me about Annual Conference mode is how difficult it is to maintain. Two weeks of focus on one thing is critical, but also exhausting, and sometimes the mind just looks for something else to work on to keep from going crazy.

It makes me wonder if a better strategy wouldn't be to practice a little but of "Annual Conference mode" at other times and for other projects. Maybe a block of time every day or a day every week, when all the other things that demand your attention can be turned off and you can dedicate yourself wholly to one important task.

Might be a new way to getting things done and teaching yourself to focus on the things that matter most.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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