As a working coach, I get into an awful lot of conversations where my clients tell me they are busy, bordering on being overwhelmed. You might expect that in an economy that is changing as fast as ours, right? When I begin to dig in, to assess why my client is feeling pressured and overwhelmed, we often find that they have a lot to work on. It’s almost always the case that they need to be at the very top of their game to play their best. Still, as I begin to peel back layers of the workload onion, we often find that they are not sticking to their priorities first, and are allowing others to sabotage their ability to work on what is most critical and most important to the team, or most important to the cause.
The Definition Of Priority
I looked up the definition of priority and found a couple of definitions that I like, “a singular thing that is regarded as more important than another.” It’s not priorities, it’s priority. Singular. Not plural. That is the prioritization lesson number one. We cannot multitask well. We just cannot. There’s no such thing, you can only really focus on one thing at a time. So stop trying to master six priorities at once. It doesn’t work well. Identify the ONE priority that is MOST CRITICAL to help you to maximize your performance and start with that. AND stick with that! Don’t let someone else start moving your priorities around, even your boss, or your spouse. If they attempt to add to your priorities or change the order, stand up for yourself and stand up for your priority and convince them that it is more important, and therefore, should be your primary concern. I liked another definition that I found in a British English dictionary, “the right to take precedence or to proceed before others.” Wow! Doesn’t that simplify things? If you work on the one thing that is most important, more important than others, and if you allow it to take precedence over others, and you proceed to work on it first… you should be prioritizing well, right? Right!
If you sit down when the pressure is off, before the business week begins, you can be clear-headed and avoid letting your emotions color your judgment. Review your goals and ensure they are still aligned with your cause or your vision. Analyze your priorities and ensure that they are ranked in order of importance and impact. Put everything on your calendar for the week, the meetings, the phone calls, the sales calls, all of it. While looking at the calendar, double-check to ensure that the bulk of your time is being spent in support of accomplishing those most important priorities, in order from most important to least, throughout the week. Determine a perfect time during the week to work on and complete each priority item that you want to accomplish, and make up your mind to stick with your schedule as best you can. That doesn’t mean it never changes as priorities change, but it doesn’t change willy-nilly.
Stick To Your Prioritized Plan
If you’re going to remain committed to what matters most and what is going to deliver the greatest impact, you are going to have to protect your time. You have to realize that time is the most precious commodity of all, and you must conserve it and avoid letting yourself or others to allow it to slip between your fingers during a week of distractions and interruptions. Get started, get busy, get working on those priorities, and do your level best to continue working on the most critical, most important, and most impactful work until it is completed. Let the interruptions wait, whenever you can. Let the distractions bounce off of you, as you stay very sharply focused on your critical few priority tasks. As you get them done, you can calmly turn your attention to the crisis that has come up while you were working on YOUR #1 priority. With that done, you can now focus exclusively on your crisis and handle it. Manage your calendar and those of the people who report to you so that you’re not letting the whirlwind of your week destroy your ability to focus on what is most important and what is most critical to accomplish. Eliminate unworthy meetings and distractions. Avoid conversations with people who just want to be negative or complain. Stay focused. Stay disciplined. Do what is most important and develop your confidence to say “NO” appropriately to distractions and false crises, so that you can say “YES” to your priorities.
You’re going to have to take a leap of faith for a bit if you’re going to begin prioritizing your most important work and start telling people “NO” when they want to change your focus to “their” priorities. You’re going to have to believe that your character will carry you through when people start to accuse you of “not getting it” or “not caring about their problem” as you stick to your most critical work and most important priorities. I work on this a lot with C-Suite Executives, their Leadership Teams, and their Emerging Leaders. There is nothing easy about this, but it is fairly simple. You can only focus your full attention on one thing at a time. It is YOUR responsibility to protect that focus and to invest it wisely. In my experience, executives who accept the responsibility to reserve their energy and attention for the things that matter most, outperform those who don’t, period. They outperform them every day of the week, and they become better, faster, smarter, and stronger as they stick to their priority and get the most important things done. You may find that doing so is the best option for you. Give it a try and let me know how it turns out!
Talk To An Experienced Coach
Michael is an award-winning Executive Coach, and the Founder of Michael Beach Coaching & Consulting, a growing Business Advisory firm with offices in Minnesota’s Twin Cities and also in Arizona. Michael is building a team of outstanding consultants and coaches who can assess your business and make recommendations for how your business can become fast growth and build a dynamic culture that will fuel your growth for years to come. If you’d like to speak with Michael or one of his executive coaches about your company’s future, send an inquiry to email@example.com and someone will call you immediately for a free consultation.