There is a body of knowledge having to do with the processes, tools, and techniques used to prioritize, both individually and in groups. For now, the simple solution is to set aside some time (hard to imagine much less than 30 minutes) on a regular basis, and, in that time, rationally and mindfully think through the answer to this question: What should I focus on first?
In the systems that we teach salespeople and sales leaders, we recommend a monthly review and prioritization session. A monthly formal, disciplined prioritization session fits with our schedules. We’ve found it to be, from experience with thousands of people, a useful time schedule. Thirty minutes to an hour, once a month, on a regular, formal disciplined basis, will keep you focused on the most important things.
You can, of course, repeat the process for smaller time increments: weekly, daily, even hourly. In our time management training, we teach salespeople to use a variation of that question several times in the course of a day. That variation is this: “Am I doing right now the most effective thing I can do?” If the answer is no, change it, and focus on that which is more effective.
In these incredibly challenging, difficult times, what should we focus on first? What should be our highest priority?
Now, before you accuse me of promoting selfishness, let me explain. Because of the nature of our difficult times, you must be at the top of your game. If you are going to be an effective leader, if you are going to guide your family, if you are going to shepherd a sales force, if you are going to be effective in your career or profession, if you are going to direct a business through these difficult times – you can’t afford to be operating at less than 100%.
If you don’t take care of yourself, you will do an injustice to all those around you who are depending on you.
Here are some ideas to help you.
1. Control the input into your mind.
It is easy to become obsessed and overwhelmed with hundreds of daily messages of gloom, doom, and pending trauma. As those messages take hold in our brains, they produce feelings of fear, dread, and anxiety. You will not do anyone any good if you are operating out of fear or anxiety. So, stop that at the source. Take control of what comes into your head. Don’t watch the news. Stop reviewing the stories on your cell phone news apps.
The best way to prevent the negative from taking root in your brain is to substitute positive thoughts for the negative. So, find sources of positive, affirming thoughts and substitute them in place of the time you would have spent.
I once changed the trajectory of my career by creating a packet of index cards, on which I printed positive thoughts and Bible verses, and then reading them to myself several times a time. I tell the story here.
2. Surround yourself with like-minded people.
The times are too perilous to go it alone. On the other hand, you can’t afford to waste your time with people who will bring you down or suck the energy and strength out of you. So, find a group of people who you can meet with regularly. Encourage each other, learn from each other and support each other. Most cities have group meetings like this regularly (yes, they will meet virtually too.) In addition, there are national companies that organize and administer local groups. Do a Google search.
If you are a Christian, consider my Christian Business Impact Groups. I facilitate two such groups of people who meet via video technology once a month, and at the moment, have an opening in each group.
3. Invest in your own development.
Now is the time to take that management training course you’ve been eyeing. Now is the time to read those books that have been recommended to you. Focus on improving your skills or gaining new competencies so that you will be more effective and of greater value to your employer and to the people who are looking to you. Remember Steven’s Coveys great advice to ‘sharpen the saw.’ The saw is you, sharpening it means to hone your skills, advance your competencies, and gain new knowledge.
4. Exercise daily.
I know, you are thinking, “Where did that come from?” The answer – from experience. We have all read about the positive impact exercise can have on us. From my experience, a good workout session can clear your mind, flood your body with endorphins, release lots of tension, and fill your stores of emotional and physical energy. It’s a discipline that will help keep you at the top of your game.
5. Increase your giving.
This is another one of those concepts that are outside of the mainstream. You’ll find this interesting and radical. In every one of my most challenging financial crises, I increased my giving.
There is something about giving that helps put your situation in perspective. No matter how dreary and depressing your situation is, there are multitudes of people who are worse off. When you step up and intentionally give, you acknowledge that. You take a life-affirming action that recognizes your place in the greater scheme of things and demonstrate faith in the future. It is a fear-demolishing, future-affirming action that reveals you as a leader and influencer who has the strength of character to take confident action.
6. Proactively plan for the future.
Now is the time to make those proactive plans for the future, to revise your personal and organizational mission and vision statements, and to visualize and articulate your view of what you can become in the future. There is something about a well-conceived vision statement that attracts and compels people and energy, that says to the world around you “It doesn’t matter what is going on right now. That’s just a bump in the road. We are going to become something significant just down the road a bit.”
Once you have articulated that positive, impactful future, you can harness your personal and corporate energy, your people, your emotional power to creating that future. You have provided, for yourself and those around you, a vision of a future that will keep you positive and engaged.
You will know what to focus on first!