The UE Coaching Blog

Prioritization NOT Time Management

You’ve heard it many many times before: “It’s all about time management if you want to achieve your goals”. Yet, if that’s really the case, and we all know and believe this to be gospel, then why do so many bright and intelligent business owners and operators STILL struggle to achieve their objectives?

It’s the prioritization of tasks, activities, and actions, not time management, that gets things done.

Prioritizing is merely sequencing; it's the order of importance you assign to the things in your life. Think about it, everything has a level of importance to you. You may value your spouse or family more than your job or career, but there are likely things in each of these areas that are more important to you than others.

You must know what your most important things/actions/decisions are and then sequence them accordingly. Here’s the key: Prioritization does NOT mean that you spend all your time on one thing, and neglect everything else. Yes, it's entirely possible to be very busy and get nothing done over a period of time (just like you can walk around in circles with no real progress), but it is not likely for this to happen if you prioritize correctly.

This is why most people insist that time management is the answer, because they equate it all to time. They believe everything must fit your schedule, and if it doesn’t, you can either do without it or simply “let it go” until later when there is more time in the day/week/month for this put-off activity.

This thinking will hold you back; greatly! People often feel their biggest problem is lack of time. And while some may have too much scheduled into their days (and thus never find true productivity), many simply aren't sequencing correctly, thus wasting that which they CAN do in a given period of time with things that are less important than others they could accommodate instead.

The ‘prioritization’ part is driven by emotions (spurred on by an "all-powerful" why), gut feel, and the recognition and understanding of what serves to move you forward in the pursuit of your outcome.

Think about it like this: you have an upcoming doctor's appointment that you scheduled several months ago. It took this long to get the appointment because there's a significant waitlist to see this practitioner. What would you do to make sure that you are able to keep this appointment?

My gut and my emotions tell me that you're going to do whatever it takes to make sure, come hell or high water, you're going to be able to keep the appointment. You'd call in sick for work, take off early from work, come up with a good excuse to leave your kids at home and you'll show up at the appointment and wait outside if need be.

If it's truly important to you, and if there's really no other way around it, then you're going to do whatever it takes to make sure that this appointment doesn't get missed.

But why? Why is it so important? What's going to happen if you miss this appointment?

Because of the significant waitlist, I'm thinking that there's a possibility that if you don't make your appointment, then they might not see you for another six months or even longer. You're at risk of developing a serious medical condition during those six months and as such, missing the appointment would have some pretty negative consequences. In fact, I'm willing to bet money on it based on how adamant you are about seeing the doctor. So as far as your long-term health goes, letting go of this appointment is out of the question.

Now... let's bring it back to business. What would happen if you placed this same level of priority on the tasks that truly needed to be completed? What's going to happen if you decided that your tasks for the day are the most important thing and nothing else would get done except THOSE tasks? Could you actually become MORE productive?

Consider the alternative for a moment...

You're at risk of letting your clients slip away if you don't get their tasks done. You're at risk of missing out on an opportunity to place the next order. You run the risk of getting behind on all of your other tasks because you chose to either not do the work, or work on something that could be an easy win, but doesn’t move the needle in the big picture. Is it really worth it? Why do we always seem to put things off until "tomorrow" when, come tomorrow, there will be just as much work again and you might miss another deadline or lose another client? Is it possible, that because of this lack of priority on the tasks at hand, the direct result is your business growth moving at the pace of molasses in January?

insert your Purpose (your why) and your Mission here.

It's your Purpose and your Mission - the reason why you're doing what you do along with the ultimate outcome of your actions, that will provide you all the focus you require when it comes to prioritizing your tasks. It's not about getting to the end of your day and thinking "Well, I worked hard today - I got lots done." No. It's all about having a single-pointed focus on an outcome that serves to move you forward in the big game... and never losing sight of WHY you're doing it.

And for this reason, if it is truly important to you, then you will do whatever it takes to make sure it gets done. Prioritization allows for focus and maximum effectiveness with regard to how you spend your energy each day.

Use that importance - that knowing of WHY and WHAT you're doing - to help guide your focus on the tasks that truly matter. And don't allow yourself to be sidetracked by all of the other stuff that wants your attention. Understanding how important these things are will make it easier for you to dismiss them and let them go, choosing instead to focus on what matters most.

How does it really make a BIG difference?

Check this out...

Here's the frame: you have a series of deliverables, tasks, and actions that you're responsible for completing in order to achieve an outcome.

Here's the challenge: you've arrived at the end of a day thinking "I got so much done!" only to look back on it at the end of the week or month and realize that while yes, there was a lot that you did indeed get accomplished, not all of it was high-priority. You ended up taking care of some low-value tasks because they were the easy things to do and as such, allowed you to feel like you'd met your daily goals. You also pushed off several tasks that would have truly moved the needle, however you told yourself a story that it was "too hard" or "something else came up" How often does THIS happen in your day or week?

Here's the opportunity: if these same activities had been appropriately prioritized you'd have had the opportunity to complete more high-value activities that were in service of your long-term goals, ultimately moving you exponentially closer to the completion of your mission

It takes practice, and yes, it DOES mean that you'll still have to "manage" your time during the day (including scheduling your tasks) in order to ensure that you're working on the most important things. But when you do, knowing WHY it's important will make ALL of the difference in how well you focus and how effective your actions are toward reaching your ultimate Outcome.

So, if you want an easy way to start prioritizing your tasks, then take some time now to write down your PURPOSE and your MISSION ... AND WRITE THEM DOWN! If they are constantly in front of your face every day as part of your morning ritual (or whenever you do your planning), then they will be the most important thing in your life. And when YOU are the most important thing in your life, then all of the things that YOU need to get done become top priority for YOU!