The keys to the balance you’re seeking are priority and practice. The initial rise above the everyday may seem impossible when you’re snowed under, but you can start by defining your vision of leadership and treating your plan to reach it as urgently important.

Find a few hours, away from the office, to describe the behavior you see for yourself. Be specific about how you will spend your time, what level of decisions you will make, what kinds of meetings you’ll attend. Write down your ideals, and revisit them once a month.

Next, book some non-cancelable appointments with yourself. Don’t permit interruptions. This is your time to focus on big-picture issues and begin to think into them. Keep notes for continuity from meeting to meeting, including next steps. Not giant steps such as “reorganize staff” but single tasks you can accomplish as part of your daily activity. Put those tasks near the top of your daily To Do list.

By intentionally sharpening your focus and integrating strategic priorities into your routine, you should be able to change the habits that have kept you trapped. Your association will be much better served, and you’re likely to be happier in your job.

Published in Associations Now, September 2006.