Feb. 15 2019 05:57 AM

Make time to do what is really important to you by understanding how to prioritize.

This past December, I became frustrated with the number of scheduled events I’d put on my calendar for the month. It seems that I had inadvertently overscheduled myself, not only with work-related activities but also with social ones to be spent with friends and family. I felt like my head was in a vise, and I was having trouble breathing. Sound familiar?

In my case, knowing what my primary driving forces are, that is the top four motivators for me doing the things I do, I was able to begin making some choices.

Let me explain my process. One of the testing instruments I’m certified to administer and use with many of my clients is called the Talent Insights Assessment. I’ve also taken it myself.

When I did, it revealed 12 motivators that stimulate me to take action. These 12 motivators are further divided into four primary driving forces; they’re the reasons I do the things that are most important to me.

The second set of motivators are the four situational driving forces; these are the things that motivate me to take a particular action, depending on the situation at hand. The last set of motivators consists of the four indifferent driving forces, things that in most situations don’t influence me as much.

The assessment revealed that one of my primary driving forces is “intentional.” This means I am driven to assist others to achieve specific purposes and not simply for the sake of being helpful or supportive.

In other words, I like helping others but not just for the sake of feeling like a nice guy. I want to see some return on my energy and effort. It may be that the person follows through on my suggestions and takes some action that improves his situation. This boosts my self-esteem and reinforces my value to myself and to the person I’m assisting.

Going back to the scenario I laid out in the beginning — overscheduling myself for the holiday season — I asked myself, “How did this happen?” The answer I heard from the voice within somewhat shocked me. It was so simple, yet so hard to implement. It boiled down to two basic principles:

1. I needed to evaluate which activities were truly a top priority for me.

2. I needed to say no to the activities that were not a high priority for me.

Let’s take a deeper look at this. When it comes to evaluating how much of a priority a business or personal activity should be, I had to ask myself three more questions to make it crystal clear which action I should take:

1. Did the activity support my personal/professional mission statement?

2. Was the activity I was considering truly a part of my long-term plan for professional and personal self-actualization?

3. If it was not, could I postpone it to another day when I had the appropriate amount of time available or simply not do it at all?

Once I asked myself those three questions, it became clear to me what my next actions should be.

I was finally able to justify my decisions and make intelligent choices.

In this case, I was able to cancel one of the activities, reschedule two of them and go ahead with the rest, confident that they were supported by my four primary drivers and were truly in line with my personal/professional mission statement.

How about you? What is your personal/professional mission statement? Now, answer the above questions.

When you’re able to implement this simple system for making wiser choices about how to spend your time, you’ll be well on your way to becoming more productive and satisfied with the activities you do pursue. Like the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” here are a few suggestions to help you manage your calendar in a more preventative way, avoid a mental meltdown and get more satisfaction from your life.

Find a good time-management system that fits with your work style. Many good time-management systems are on the market. I’ve found that the system that works best for the company leaders and presidents I’ve coached over the years is the one that most closely fits their personal preferences.

You may have looked at a few of these systems. Maybe you’ve even liked certain parts of one of them, but you’ve failed to find the “perfect” one that does it all. Give up this expectation. Find the one that comes the closest; you can meld other features into it as you go.

For instance, I use a customer relationship management system called Hubspot and a hard copy day planner. These tools, along with my Google calendar (which interfaces nicely with Hubspot), form a suite that works fairly well for me. Could it be better? Certainly. I keep striving to improve it.

Follow Pareto’s Principle. When deciding where you should invest your time, try using Pareto’s Principle, or the “80/20 Rule.” When you stop to look at just where your time is going, you’ll begin to see patterns. The question you must ask yourself then is, “Are these patterns supporting or detracting from my ability to achieve the important goals in my life?”

Revisit your personal and professional goals. A good time to reassess is during the last week of December as you look ahead to the next year. But this shouldn’t be the only time you do it. Experts agree that reviewing goals as the year unfolds is extremely helpful in keeping yourself on track. Here’s the analogy I use for this. Consider a space shuttle on its way to the moon. If it’s off course during a majority of its flight, many, many midcourse corrections will be necessary if it’s ever going to reach its destination.

So, the next time you find yourself having a minor meltdown, just take a break and ask yourself if the way you’ve prioritized your activities is consistent with your personal/professional mission statement. If not, make some changes. I bet you’ll be glad you did.

Tom Borg is a team performance and customer experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. He helps these organizations through his consulting, speaking, training and mentoring. He can be reached at 734.404.5909 or tom@tomborg.com, or visit www.tomborgconsulting.com.