Picking what’s important

How do you prioritize?

As a person running a business, how do you choose where you spend your time – really?

In talking with clients and with members of groups I attend and/or lead, I’ve noticed that what people say are their priorities … often bears little relationship to where they’re actually putting their attention and time.

Your true priorities reveal themselves by what you do, not what you say.

Like most businesspeople, I’m sure you acknowledge that learning new things, exploring new ideas, and developing new aspects of your business are all important.

In fact, you probably say they’re priorities for you.

Yet like many small business owners I know, you may find yourself postponing these learning and development activities – activities that really are crucial for your business’s long-term success – in favor of something that seems to be more important in the moment.

If that sounds familiar to you, here are some ideas for different ways of looking at how to choose what’s really important.

A client called…

One of my clients recently cancelled an appointment with me because one of his clients called unexpectedly.

Another told me of skipping an important networking meeting because her client’s appointment ran late … and she couldn’t find a way to say “I have to go now!”

We all want to support our clients.  But “support” doesn’t mean “wreak havoc with your schedule on their behalf.”  It’s okay to be up front and clear about the realities of your commitments – even when that means saying “I can’t do that right now” to an important client.

Be honest with yourself

The classes you want to take, the brainstorming appointments you make with colleagues, the time you need to work on your business development projects…  It’s easy to say, and even feel, that these are all important.

It’s often harder to be honest about what’s actually happening.

There’s a tendency to convince yourself – to actually believe – that each time you postpone or cancel one of these activities, it’s an isolated incident.  I’ve seen it in myself, and I’ve seen it in clients and colleagues.  Take a look – I’ll bet you’ve done it too.

Looking deeper, most people discover that it’s habitual.

Does recognizing this pattern change how you feel about what you choose to focus on?

Identify the voices

There’s a voice telling you to rearrange your priorities.  Something inside – some thought, some belief – is saying that you don’t have time right now to to take the class, attend the mastermind meeting, develop the new program, product, or service.

And it’s easy to listen to that voice and believe it, especially since it usually comes with fear and anxiety attached.

What if you were to stop and ask yourself:  WHY?  Why don’t I have time?

What would the answer be?

And is the answer really true – or is it a voice of scarcity, urgency, or self-doubt?

Feel what you feel

It’s okay to feel fear.  It’s okay to feel the urgency of needing to respond to a client.  It’s okay to feel anxiety about paying your bills.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  being self-employed is often terrifying and often exhilarating.

When you turn away from difficult feelings, you perpetuate the behavior patterns that arise from them.

Instead, meet them with understanding.  Meet your feelings as they are, allowing yourself to see them and to experience compassion and caring (without indulging or victimizing yourself).  As you do so, your behavior will naturally begin to change, and you’ll find yourself more able to discern the truly important from the apparently urgent.

Opportunity is fleeting

The opportunity right here, right now – the opportunity in front of you, whatever it may be, to learn, to discover, to do something MORE for your business – will never come again.  Ever.

It’s easy to think that there will be other opportunities.  And to some extent, it’s true.  There will be other opportunities – but this opportunity is unique.  And remember the pattern of continually postponing “for later”!

What’s right here, right now, waiting for your attention?

How will you choose what’s important?

“Understand that the right to choose your own path is a sacred privilege. Use it. Dwell in possiblity.”  Oprah Winfrey, 1954-, American television host, actress, producer, and philanthropist.

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