If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few months, it’s that not everything is equally important, either personally or professionally. Some things are truly impactful, either to your bottom line or to filling your energy bucket, but it’s addictive to have that feeling of being able to cross a task (however menial) off a list.
How do you manage through that, and prioritize the items (and people!) that will really make a difference for you, when everything feels like a priority?
Navigating “Life Chaos”
I didn’t always prioritize the activities in my day, or my life, or my job. I somehow got it all done or drove myself crazy trying. But as my career took off, my job took over my life. The harder I worked, the longer my list became. I was entrenched in what I call “life chaos.” I couldn’t seem to figure out how to manage it all.
We’ve all heard the phrase “put your own air mask on first,” but how many of us actually do that? What would happen if we made ourselves the priority? Would everything really fall apart? Or might we discover things run more smoothly when we’re taken care of too?
Good physical and mental health contribute to a productive life. I now give my personal appointments the same priority as my business appointments. I schedule exercise, acupuncture, mentoring, meditation, and any other self-help activities the same way I would time for a new client. When my personal appointments pop up, I attend them, just as I would any other.
Consider what self-care you’ve been neglecting. What could your life look like if you reorganized your priorities? Is there a virtual yoga, meditation, or spin class you’ve wanted to go to but couldn’t seem to find the time?
Let’s dig deeper. Are you overdue for your annual physical or mammogram? Are you in desperate need of a massage? Would you benefit from seeing a therapist? Consider how you could integrate some virtual appointments into your schedule. Can you delegate some items in your life or hire help to make room?
Seeking professional advice can be a game-changer. When we make our personal well-being our first priority, we can perform at our best mentally and physically. That fitness carries over into our ability to lead and provide for those who need us. I’ve seen firsthand that this investment in oneself leads to more financial and business success as well.
Organize by Impact
I can’t change deadlines, so they will always rise to the top of my workload. But, I look daily at what’s going to have the most impact on our clients and position those items first. I also try to organize my day by when my energy tends to be best. I am not a morning person, so I typically try to do tough client calls or thinking work between 10 am EST and 3 pm EST, when I tend to be rocking and rolling.
I’ll schedule lighter calls for later in the day and/or work that is a little more menial, so if I am not at my best, I am still getting things done, but not it’s items that don’t need the same level of mental horsepower. I also am not afraid to stop work earlier than potentially I would like on weekdays (especially with West Coast clients!) and save “thinking work” to a few hours over the weekend when I will be fresh and have uninterrupted time.
I don’t pretend that the bottom line isn’t a top priority, but I also try to ensure that I prioritize solutions that align with my values. If I’m organizing by impact, I have to consider how my decisions will affect my team and clients even if that means a short-term hit to the bottom-line. When you prioritize integrity, you don’t have to worry that today’s decisions will negatively impact the future.
Only you can define what success looks like for yourself and your business. Along with integrity, I ensure I’m focused on activities that promote our agency’s success. If I’m not careful, I can get caught up in the minutia and forget about the big picture. Because taking care of my team is vital, actions that promote business and team growth/health take priority.
Decide what’s important to you first, then make sure your actions support that vision. On a personal level, my success is less about making money and more about living a happy life surrounded by a great community and support network.
Take Charge of Your Time–Map it Out!
Now that you know how to prioritize, let’s ensure it all fits. I like to start the month—sometimes with a glass of wine in hand on my rooftop patio (sometimes or likely always!)—to map out my schedule.
First, schedule exercise and any other self-care activity. I recognize that if I want to do a Pilates class mid-week, I might need to compensate by working a bit on Saturday. Those are the tradeoffs to balance.
Next, add space to meet with clients and colleagues and take care of all those daily taskings.
Block off personal and business trips.
What about business growth? Are you hiring someone new? Create a space to interview. Or, time to reach out to new clients.
What about other long-term vision projects? Block off space to free think creative aspirations.
Don’t forget philanthropy. Life isn’t balanced if we aren’t using some of our wealth and fortune to help others.
As the month progresses, you can make adjustments, but, having a priority roadmap ensures you create balance. Once you give up the fantasy of crossing everything off your list and really being focused on the high impact tasks, you’ll be doing better work and having a lot more fun.