5.9 Prioritization for the UltraSuccessful
EGL Newsletter Volume 5.9
When you ask most people if they are working on the most important things, they will usually say that they are. In fact, the longer I do this work, the more that I believe that most people are, in fact, doing what they feel is most important in that moment. Many don’t think for a moment about it, they select based on a direction they have been given, or their best understanding of what their job requires of them. The process of diving into the thing that seems to be the top of the list is fairly simple. However, when we begin to take control of how the list is structured is when we begin to change our outcomes significantly. If you look at success in prioritization, you can’t really look at whether people are doing it, you can only evaluate how they are doing it.
There is a little restaurant down by the water here in Santa Barbara. People come in, get their name on the list, and wait for the people who are already there to finish eating. We can call this method FIFO, or “First in, first out”. The first person there has the highest priority. This is a very simple method of prioritization. You see it everywhere. The second generation of this method is the triage method of hospitals, where you look at the needs of those coming in and put them in order by relative importance of their need. This is all a method of dealing of work that shows up at your door, making sense of the ebb and flow, and feeling productive. However, if you are thinking about your most important goals and aspirations in life, is that what you want? Do you want the key ingredients of life stacked up in a long line, waiting for you to finish one, then the next, then the next? Do you want to live a life of responding to work as it comes to you, whether someone else creates it, or you create it yourself? I doubt it. If that’s not the case, then what will you do?
Traditional prioritization is to create your list, rank it, pick the top item, work it till its done, then go to the next most important thing. Sound familiar? This is a great recipe for getting work done, keeping flow going and staying “on task”. If someone wants to know when a particular item is going to get done, all you have to do is count down the list and estimate the time.
Okay, let’s take stock. It is clear that many things literally have to be done in a certain order. You have to pour the foundation of a house before people can start building the kitchen. That is obvious. But life has many more wrinkles and complexities than that. Additionally, when we are talking about life aspirations, they can be far less concrete and linear. First step (oops, that sounds linear) is to be clear on what your image of the ultimate desired state of life actually is. We simply must know what we want to create, because we are actively creating something every moment of every day.
As soon as you define how you want to be in this life, and then see what you will be doing when you are that, it will become much more clear how you spend your time. For instance, I have a friend who recently said that he wanted to be a writer when he retired. That is pretty clear, most of us have an idea of what it means to be a writer. What is less clear for most is what it is that a writer does. In other words, think about how you would know a writer when you saw one. Staying just in the doings, there is a long list of things that writers would do every day, such as spend time generating ideas. There are other writer tasks, such as writing, editing, thinking, meeting with publishers, building marketing plans (provided you want to sell what you write), speaking, signing books, and the list goes on and on. It obviously fills the lives of those who are writers, so you can imagine the many nuances that go into being a writer.
Very often the act of creating priorities gets muddled up with creating a project plan. Think about the difference in priorities if you want to be a writer as opposed to write a book. They become quite different. We’re going to focus on the first.
The most powerful prioritization process is based on what you want to be, and leave the question of who does it open. I call this third generation prioritization. The ultra successful focus on the question of “What do I want to be?” Then, how do I act that out every day? This prioritization process looks at everything you do, every decision you make, and asks if it is in alignment with what you want to be.
When we get down to the question of doing, the prioritization question is this. “What are the things that only I can do in order for me to be who or what I most desire?” At the deepest level, in the example of being a writer, that answer is to “Live the life of a writer.” That involves what you think about, the conversations you hold, the way you look at the world, the way you describe your breakfast to a friend, and even the first program you open when you start your computer. Your life is what you do every moment, and what you do is an absolute reflection of who or what you have decided to be.
Given that, here is a basic prioritization process for the ultra successful:
Define who and/or what you want to be.
Get a clear image of what life is like when you are there.
Ask yourself the question “Can I love life when I am there?” If no, recycle. If yes, continue.
Decide to live that life, every moment of every day. Okay, here’s a wrinkle. Commit to love living that life – right now. This becomes your top priority.
Rethink all of your associations to determine how they define you. Build new ones, retire old ones.
Recraft your life and your time so that you can spend your time creating the most important aspect of the life you have committed to live.
Decide who can handle the major doings associated with this life. Create the alliances required to support you in this life, and those who will ensure that the stream of work that comes towards you is handled automatically.
No matter where you are on the journey, hold a picture of yourself in your ultimate state of success, and live from that place.
Take time every day to feel grateful for giving yourself the life you want.
Adopt the practice of prioritizing through checking against your image of being who you want to be. If you aren’t living it right now, what you are doing or being is NOT a priority. Immediately find what is and move to it.
Endeavor to build each day doing what only you can do to be the person you most aspire towards being.
Now, if this appeals to you and you’d like more help with it, send me an email at [email protected]. We can talk more.