There’s a million things a person could do when they move into a new place. We can remodel a bathroom. We can get new drapes. We can plant new landscaping. The options can be bewildering.

The same is true for our options at work. There are a million things we could do to “improve the place.”

While people do have endless creativity, they have limited energy. So how to decide?

First, establish (or remember) your proximate goals. Proximate goals are strategic goals we are pursuing in the near term. For most that will be a year or 18 month horizon. We are well into what we once thought of as the “new” year. What were the outcomes that you had set for this year? To what extent are the activities you are spending your time on right now contributing to those objectives?

Secondly, schedule the key steps and activities related to your proximate goal. People can make the mistake and think that the larger goals they have set are something “extra” and something to do when normal day to day work is done. Not true. Short term work and long term work are both still work. Plan accordingly. Structure your time and energy so that your objectives and work are cohesive and related. If the goal is truly important, make it part of your daily priorities even if it is far off.

Thirdly, exercise your discretion. In my observation, leaders have a lot more discretion than they actually use. Call center workers have very little discretion about how they spend their day. Leaders have much wider discretion. If you are a leader you are paid for the results, not the method, not the number of emails you generated, and certainly not by the meetings that were attended. Get creative and figure out ways to work smarter on your high value targets, not just harder on the mundane.

It can be a lot of fun to improve a new house, but it will likely be more rewarding if we make sure the high value things are getting done first. As a leader, you don’t want to get to the end of another year and have to explain where all your energy went when things still look like they did last year.