Manage Your Priorities-Not Your Time

There is much written about how to better manage our time and countless “tools” and planners to aid us in our constant quest for better time management. We can diligently account for each and every minute throughout our days, weeks and months. The trouble with this approach is that we forget to come up out of the weeds to make sure we are moving in the right direction.

As humans we tend to live in a 90-day world. What I mean by this is that we begin to fray; our big ideas and good intentions wane and veer off course. If we don’t come up out of the weeds to refocus and realign our vision, it is unlikely we will ever get there. This is as true in your business as it is in your personal life. I have found that using the same approach in both has proven highly successful for me and our company.

Ideally, you will have established your Core Focus (or your personal mission statement-Covey’s Habit 2). If you have, this is the foundation for setting priorities and decision making. This will be a topic for another day, but knowing and understanding what is important to you, why it is important and how that is reflected in your different roles is essential as this becomes the filter for the decisions you make. Today, we will instead concentrate on reverse-engineering your hopes and dreams to build the business (or the life) you want.

To grow and develop you need both stretch goals and S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound). In EOS® terms, our stretch goal is our BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal-courtesy of Jim Collins). This is a big idea or vision, quantitative or qualitative, set 5-30 years in the future. I recommend going easy on the “audacious” aspect of this goal-we are not looking to set impossible milestones for our company.

From here we look ahead three years to what we (cleverly) call The 3-Year Picture™. With your BHAG in mind-what does your company look like in three years? It’s best to begin with revenue and profit numbers, but from there brainstorm everything you need to support the 3 -Year Picture – including the number of employees, your location, the number of customers…anything that will paint a picture of what your business needs to meet that vision. It is best not to think of these as goals, they are more like brief headlines.

With a clear vision of our future company in three short years, we can bring this vision down to the ground. With our 3 year vision in mind-what are the most important things that need to happen this year to get you there? Again, begin with revenue and profit numbers and then work backward to determine the MOST IMPORTANT THINGS that need to happen this year to get there. A very important guideline to remember is less is more! If everything is important, than nothing is important. A good rule of thumb is 3-7 goals for the year – and make sure they are S.M.A.R.T.

Now we are ready to hit the ground and set our goals for the quarter.  Look at your 1-Year Plan™ and decide the most important task or projects that need to happen this quarter to achieve that plan. In EOS we call these Rocks-make them S.M.A.R.T!. Again, less is more-so whittle it down to 3-7 Rocks.

Why Rocks? This term comes from Vern Harnesh’s Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (and he in turn got it from an analogy in Stephen Covey’s book First Things First). Picture a glass cylinder set on a table Next to the cylinder are rocks, fravel, sand and a glass of water. Imagine the glass cylinder is all the time you have in a day. The rocks are your main priorities, the gravel your day-to-day responsibilities, the sand represents interruptions and the water is everything else you get hit with during your day. Carrying the analogy through, most people begin by pouring the water in the cylinder, then the sand, gravel and finally the rocks. What happens? The rocks don’t fit.

But if you reverse this process and start by adding the rocks first, then pour in the gravel and the sand, finishing with water. Now everything fits in the glass. This is why I say stop managing your time and instead learn to manage your priorities. With your Rocks in place, look ahead at your months and weeks and be intentional about scheduling those priorities. Develop a consistent and disciplined approach and you will be amazed at how much you will accomplish.

It is essential to realign your goals to your vision to keep you on course. We do this every 90 days and every year we do a reset of this process and make any necessary pivots. This also works brilliantly in your personal life as well as your business.

What are you waiting for? Quit micromanaging your time and start managing your priorities so you can watch your successes grow.

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