Learning How To Set Priorities Will Free Up Your Schedule And Give You Confidence.
If you know how to set priorities in life, it can make all the difference between success and failure. Can you recognize what is urgent and what can wait? You may find that this isn’t an easy task. If this sounds like you, be aware that you may end up in total chaos feeling totally overwhelmed and out of control.
In his book, 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey distinguishes between leadership and management. He says that leadership is more of an art, a right-brained activity that consists of asking yourself the questions of life. Management is where you put this perspective into action, putting first things first. As I’m sure you are already aware, your role as the leader mean that you decide just what the most important things are. You have to learn to prioritize.
Operating a business can be very overwhelming as there are so many very important decisions to make. When you are a sole proprietor, they are all your decisions. A word of advice, don’t feel intimidated. Whatever you do, don’t let this stop you from taking on the role of business leader and manager. It’s crucial you take charge and get organized. In Covey’s opinion, “the essence of the best thinking in the area of time management can be captured in a single phrase: “organize and execute around priorities.”
Even School Children Can Learn Leadership Principles
While researching this topic about leadership and management, I came across some ideas for school children that are currently being implemented from the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People book. The school system and educators break it down into simple to understand elements. The one I am focusing on for this post is Habit 3, Put First Things First. For “The Leader In Me” program for children, they put it this way:
Work First, Then Play
I spend my time on things that are most important. This means I say no to things I know I should not do. I set priorities, make a schedule, and follow my plan. I am disciplined and organized.
Image: ShellyP, Art Teacher. Photo of 2nd Annual Leadership Day at Elm Grove Elementary School in Texas.
Simple Steps To Getting Your Priorities Straight
Setting priorities, Habit 3, takes place day in and day out, moment-by-moment. You will find that it deals with mainly time management. It also is about life management: your purpose, values, roles, and priorities. You have to determine just what are “first things?” The best way for me to describe is that these are things you find mean the most to you, have the most importance.
By putting first things first, you are taking control and organizing and managing both time and events according to the goals and priorities you previously established.
If you haven’t already done so, set your goals. A simple straight line from where you are to your goals would be great, wouldn’t it? But, you can’t get from Point A to Point B if you don’t have a reference for exactly where you are at right now (Point A) and where it is you want to go (Point B). In my previous post, Focus On Your End Results When Goal Setting, I take you through the process on how to set goals. So getting your priorities straight begins with the goals you have determined are important to you. Hopefully, you already have your goals all spelled out in simple, clear, easy-to-understand language. If not, do that before moving on to the next steps.
Establish balance for life. I have always taught my children that one of the most challenging skills to learn is balance in life. We all wear many hats and have so many duties, responsibilities, and things we want to achieve. Being aware of balance each day will teach you just how elusive it can be. It helps to break down and schedule things on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. It helps me to make sure at the end of each day that I am aware of tomorrow’s priorities. I know what I need to achieve and what I want to try to complete. In my experience, it helps to remember that life happens so leave room and time for unexpected things to come up and interrupt.
Organize your life, time, and workspace. There are many options and organizational styles that you can adopt. My main point is, just do it! Find out where your life is the messiest and clean it up! Don’t leave things to chance. Success is something you plan for, not gamble with. Once you become organized, you will find that with organization and efficiency comes more free time. You will be able to set and keep your priorities straight.
Keep in mind that by creating balance, getting organized and setting your priorities, you may feel very vulnerable and inadequate. This is normal! Be patient with yourself, watch your inner dialogue. You should be a priority, too. Now and then we need to be reminded that you deserve kindness and respect, too. Remember, you are a human being not a machine. You can’t do everything, but you can make changes and do something. Just make sure each day you are taking steps to move forward towards your goals. Moving forward is moving forward. It’s still progress.
As you learned in my previous post, never lose sight of your goals. By setting your priorities, the focus is still on the end results. The priorities list supports the goals. Don’t get so distracted by the priorities that you lose sight of your goals. You may need to readjust your rudder or your sails from time to time as the prevailing winds change. That’s okay, just stay on course.
Keep your passion and enthusiasm along the journey. From time to time, you may lose some of your excitement about reaching your goals. Revisit your “why,” the reasons your goals are important to you, your happiness, and your lifestyle. Remind yourself, why are these goals important? Maybe you need to tweak them again? Redefine them? In order to keep the passion alive, you may have to go over your goals and priorities lists from time to time. If you don’t keep the passion and enthusiasm alive, you may drift off course and get lost.
How To Get Started
Stephen R. Covey states that a good way to begin is by writing down a concise and clear answer to the following questions:
- What one thing could you do (that you aren’t currently doing) that if you chose to do it on a regular basis, it would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?
- What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?
The author qualifies our daily activities by utilizing two factors: Priorities that are Urgent or Important. These two factors are then regrouped under four categories of activities:
- Important – Urgent activities (e.g. Crises, pressing problems, deadline-driven projects)
- Important – Not urgent activities (relationship building, planning, recreation)
- Not important – Urgent activities (Interruptions, some calls, some mail, some meetings)
- Not important – Not urgent activities (trivia, time wasters, Facebook)
Covey believes that effective people don’t choose to spend their time on non-important activities, (even those under category 3) because they are not considered important. What we tend to do is see the urgency of non-important matters based on the priorities and expectations of others. The difference with effective people is that they spend most of their time on important, but not urgent, activities such as relationship building, planning, and play time.
Take A Look At Covey’s Two Questions Again
What categories do you now feel your answers fit into? Important? Are they urgent? It appears that the author considers our answers deeply important, but enough to be urgent. The conclusion is that since they aren’t urgent, we’re not implementing them. He asks us to look again at the nature of the questions: “What one thing could you do in your personal and professional life that, if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life?” This will take focus and the answer will change as you learn, experience, and grow.
Operating a business, setting and keeping goals, having the discipline to both set and stay on course, are not easy things. But then, success isn’t easy. If you want to make the most out of your art business and your creativity, if you don’t want to be a “starving artist,” then you can’t leave it to chance or hope to “be discovered” one day. For most of us, that is simply a fantasy. Day dreaming is fun, but you have to plan and take action to turn dreams into reality.
If you want to make the most out of your art business and your creativity, if you don’t want to be a “starving artist,” then you can’t leave it to chance or hope to “be discovered” one day. For most of us, that is simply a fantasy. Day dreaming is fun, but you have to plan and take action to turn dreams into reality.
Much success and prosperity to you,
Let me ask you, do you have ways that you have learned to set priorities in your life? Please comment below so we can all benefit from your experience.
If this post resonated with you, please share so others can benefit.