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07 Apr

101.7 Priorities first

Have you ever felt like you do a lot during your day, but like you do not actually achieve much, or that at the end of the day, despite being mentally exhausted, it is hard to even remember what you spent all your day on? Did you ever feel hopeless at the fact that most of your secret wishes, dream projects or ambitious goals never get touched on?

I’ve heard some mean advice, that if you want to make sure that your important things get done by people that constantly check their email, you should send them an email about what needs doing early in the morning. They will probably get the thing done for you before they even get started on any of their real work.

Truth is that one of the most important commodities we possess, besides time, is our attention. Wherever we put our attention, we invest our minds and time. The only way we can make our dreams come true, be it in our personal life or at work, is by feeding these dreams with our attention. Most people that achieve a lot of things are not magicians. They are just people that are AMAZINGLY good at knowing what they want to achieve, and at directing most of their attention and time onto those projects.

This sounds great. And you might want to become one of those people straight away. However, it is important to realize that those same people able to give attention and time resources plentifully to their goals, are actually very good at starving of attention all unimportant projects. That they are not the people that answer unimportant emails immediately. That they are not the people that check their inbox or messages or social media 5 times an hour. That they are the people that can do something which we at times find a bit scary: resist not only the temptation of checking in their devices, but also the pressures of a boss or colleague who knocks at their door wanting a quick update or sprint on a project that is C level value.

People very good at putting their time in what is important are also very BAD at putting their time in what is unimportant. However, most of the time (or at least after an adjustment period), nobody cares too much about this. Because the results such people have on the really important stuff add so much value, that nobody insists with any strength that they answer their email every 5 minutes.

Being able to prioritize what is important and what is not is thus a great skill. It takes both assertiveness and knowledge of what is important to practice. And gaining this skill doesn’t happen overnight. It is about slow incremental progress at making decisions based on priorities, and rejecting or postponing things that are not a priority. It is about getting good at a process. This might sound dry and clinical, but it is actually just about feeding the things you love first, especially with the moments in which you have a lot of energy. Why?

Imagine you had a good night sleep and your attention is a beautiful clear spring source early in the morning. With this clarity, you could probably make great progress on at least one of the things that are important for you, or at least on one of those projects that could truly take your career to the next level, and leave you impressed with what you can achieve. More importantly, leave you hopeful that you can perhaps get to even those secret projects that you don’t even dare promise to yourself that you could achieve.

However, generally what happens between our morning clarity and getting to doing the really important things is that we muddy that clarity with opening our inbox, chatting to a bunch of colleagues, starting work on matters that we don’t really care about much. Working on things that will not achieve much for our career or our sense of well-being, but are putting us under pressure, makes us lose our morning energy resources. Our clarity is mostly squandered before we even get to the important things.

What is the antidote? The antidote is deceptively simple, yet requires wonderful mastery for us to apply constantly. The antidote is knowing what our priorities are - in most areas of our lives, and dedicating a portion of time each day of that clear stream of attention to those priorities.

Knowing what our life priorities are might sound complex. But it can be tackled in simple ways - by writing a list of everything we need to do, and then extracting out of there the things that seem the most important. This is one of those places where one needs generosity and flexibility with one’s self, as we need to allow for the fact that the list will change.

 It happens to many people that, only after they made a list of everything they need to do, and extract a priority list, they see that this second list needs to be processed for the true priorities, and then even the latter list can be improved. It may seem in this process like things keep on shifting, however, the work you do initially to clarify your goals and wishes is not in vain. It helps achieve laser focus. Only with doing the first list, you can then get clearer and clearer.

This process of listing one’s priorities may also seem like it’s taking the time. However, in terms of efficiency and precision, facing and knowing one’s real priorities AND acting on them is truly a time saver. What would you rather do, use a sharp spear to pierce a target, after you focused to determine what the target is? Or save the time it takes to precisely determine the target, and instead use a blunt stick to beat an area 20 times the target, located somewhere in the same state as the target, or perhaps in a state starting with the same first letter?

Precision takes a little bit of time to establish, but it adds great time savings along the way. Your mission will be to choose some of your priorities, dedicate some morning clarity time to them, and then watch the fruit of your labour grow! You can even go minimalistic and choose only one priority. As long as you make constant progress every day and this reinforces your cycle of working on what is important, you win. So go ahead and enrol.

See connected lesson 101.7 Priorities first

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