In my morning meditation earlier today Andi Puddicombe (Headspace.com) shared an interesting provocation. “Imagine if you only had today – how would you spend it?” That focusses the mind on what your priorities are doesn’t it? Mahatma Gandhi said that “action expresses priorities” – what you do, what you pay attention to, is ultimately what you consider to be most important.

Would you peruse Facebook I wonder, go on twitter, check out the latest newsfeeds or check your emails? I would hope I wouldn’t, but, like many people, that is where we spend a large portion of our day, to the extent that one might assume they are the priorities that matter. We allow others to dictate our agendas and respond to the stimulation we receive from the world around us.

What is the alternative? To set your own priorities and to create your intentions about what really matters. I have said it before, but it bears repeating, “if you don’t have a plan you end up as part of someone else’s plan, and they never wrote their plan for you!” It doesn’t have to be a plan that is Blackadder cunning, but it does need you to have considered what is important for you. As part of my Sat Nav for Life process I do a values exercise with people, essentially getting them to identify the 5 most important values to them. It is always a surprise to watch the difficulty people face in the first ‘sifting’, unable to discard many cards at all, but by the end, they are sharper and more focussed on the five that matter. The activity is all about honing in on the values that are the most important to you and that should drive the way you are living your life. It isn’t about saying that other values are not important, they are just not as important.

I spend a lot of my time helping functional teams and organisations with strategic intent – one of the challenges for nearly all of these is about what to stop, what to leave until next year! It appears that everything is a priority, but it can’t be can it….. by definition.

In their book ‘The One Thing’ – Gary Keller and Jay Papasan expand on this very train of thought and there are two of the 6 Lies to Success that I would share in particular.

  1. Everything matters equally – it doesn’t, some things are more important and if you are going to spend your time in the most valuable way, you need to know which are the most important. Success is about doing what matters the most.
  2. Multi-tasking enables you to get more done – it doesn’t, doing more than one thing at a time means that you divide your attention, your focus and effort meaning you less likely to be successful.

Our default is ‘everything is important’, the more you are challenged to prioritise the easier it becomes. So I would encourage you to start now, don’t leave it to the last minute to work out what is really important. How about taking this action to help move you forward – aim to STOP at least one thing in your life that you don’t believe is a priority – if it is that important you will know, if it isn’t you will have made more time for the things that are.