As our career and family lives have fully merged together in our homes, for some it is a glorious balance and for others in an off-kilter nightmare. Regardless of where you are on the glory to nightmare spectrum (and for many of us it shifts based on the day), there is a question demanding an answer: “What is my priority?” Simply stated, “What is most important?”
We faced this question before this pandemic, but when our routine is disrupted it begs to be answered again, and perhaps the answer may be different this go-around.
For those of us who love “yeses” and hide from “nos” the answer to "what is most important?" can’t be “all of it”. If everything is your priority, then nothing is your priority.
Time, like money, is fungible. You can spend it any way you want...once.
Each day, something will win, and something will lose. We will say yes to the long meeting and by doing so say no to our family. Other days we will say yes to our family and miss facilitating that meeting we prepared for.
Each “yes” is accompanied by countless “nos”. And each “no” is an indication of an intentional “yes”. And that “yes” is our priority.
Do we like our priorities?
Do we like what we are saying yes to? Do we feel confident that in the long run we will look back, proud of our priorities?
Are our decisions today really getting us where we are wanting to go in business and in life?
Do you ever feel the anxiety in decision making? Should we do this or that? Say yes or no? Go or stop?
Do you feel the fear associated with decision remorse? Questioning if the choice was the right one?
If so, you aren’t alone.
Each of us are faced with decisions every day…it is estimated in total that we make 35,000 decisions a day. From the routine and automatic to the major and strategic, we are constantly making decisions. That’s enough to feel exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious and fearful.
However, there are ways to shift this dynamic and make decisions that indicate priorities we are proud of.
I want to share a 5 key principles to spark your thinking on priorities…
1. Know our Purpose: When purpose is defined it helps decisions be refined
What is your purpose? With a clear crafted purpose, our decisions become easier to make. Our purpose is the bedrock for our “yeses” to thrive. When opportunities align with our purpose there is growth; when they don’t align and we still say yes, it leads to anxiety and frustration.
2. Filter our Decisions: A good filter catches the best decision
Just like panning for gold, the filter sifts and separates what matters and what doesn’t. What is the filter you use for decision making? I have a few to share…
· What’s Important Now (W.I.N.) – use the filter of what needs priority now vs. what can take place later
· Is this something that only I can do? This filter helps us focus on what we uniquely can do
· Do what we need to do so we can do what we want to do. Getting the important items done first.
3. Be intentional with Habits: Habits write the story of our lives
We have a small space for discipline in our lives and a great capacity for habits. When we can turn the highest priority items into habits that become automatic for us we thrive. Our habits write the story of our lives. Taking care of our health, time with family and friends, spiritual growth – whatever your highest priorities are, build time each day and each week as a habit so you are sure to say “yes” to what matters most. Habits help us avoid putting our priorities up for debate.
4. Align with Others: Priorities must be shared
As a business or as a family, we have to share priorities or else we are pulling against each other in opposite directions. Talk about counterproductive. “Sideways energy” as a friend once called it. In business our priorities should align to the company’s priorities. In family, our priorities should be shared for the greater good of the family. Organizations and families are not one-dimensional, but in fact are collections of unique people with unique interests and priorities. We must be intentional to align and decide on what our shared priorities are.
5. Assess over Time: As time shifts, priorities need to be assessed
Over time, priorities shift. What was once most important may not be 10 months or 10 years from now. Every 6-12 months, take intentional time to assess and ask the questions:
· What about our priorities have shifted?
· What about our priorities are still true?
· What new priorities do we have today?
We all want to live lives we are proud of. To make decisions that reflect the priorities we want to be true of our lives. But we don’t drift into greatness. In fact, the opposite is true. Without intentionality we atrophy, we decline, we get distracted. When we are grounded in purpose, equipped with a strong filter, powerful habits, and committed alignment we are able to live freely and confidently in the decisions we are making. The fear and anxiety that spring up simply call for a re-assessment and reflection on our “yeses” and “nos” and a chance to get back on track.
May our “yeses” be intentional and our “nos” be confident.