Are you busy? Do you feel overwhelmed? Are you coming out of the busy holiday season and wondering how you will be able to go through that again? Maybe you are looking to grow, but you don’t know how you are going to do that.
In this month’s column, I want to share my thoughts about going from frantic to strategic, so you can get your time and sanity back. I don’t know anyone who is not “busy.” In fact, it is the modern-day badge of honor. We all have many roles and responsibilities, and running or working in our business is just one of those roles. We all feel very “busy.” But we do not need “busy” to keep us in constant fight or flight mode.
Even as someone who is constantly busy, what I know to be the truth is that the frantic feeling comes from challenges with time management. I have polled the members of Our Success Group, and many of them indicate that their number one challenge is managing their time – the juggling act that we all do daily. If this sounds familiar to you, keep reading, because the secret I know is this: we don’t have a time management problem but rather a priority management problem.
My goal is to share with you three questions that will help you go from frantic to strategic. When we get clear on the priorities, we can better manage our time, say no to projects more quickly, and regain control over our most precious resource – time. Priority management is easier said than done, so these three questions give us a great framework to measure our priorities with. Before you plan your week, start your day, or tackle a mountainous task list, break out these three questions and strategically move forward.
1. Is this task important right now or for my future?
When we feel frantic and have tasks on our list, they all feel essential at some level. This question helps us measure the importance of the task beyond the current moment. When measuring the task’s priority for your future, you will also realize that most of your tasks are someone else’s priority. Even if the task is your priority, could it be a good idea that needs to be filed away for a future time? Will doing that task right now make a considerable positive impact on your future?
For this question to be something you can honestly answer, you must work from clear goals aligned with your larger purpose or reason. If you have not been able to get some clarity on that, reach out to me. I’m happy to help explore that with you over at CoachAaron.com.
If your gut tells you that the task or project is only important right now, it doesn’t mean you have to scratch it off the list and try to forget about it. I would encourage you to have a system for managing your tasks where you can take these “right now” tasks and assign them. Complete them if they can be knocked out quickly and not interrupt your day. Or you can delegate them or dump them to a secondary list so you don’t feel like you will forget about them. Finding a system that works for you and making sure you own and run your life by that system is crucial to getting from constantly frantic to strategic.
2. How much does it affect my future?
After determining if the task is essential for your future, it is time to ask yourself about its level of importance to your future. Again, clarity on your goals and a clear vision or reason will make this question possible to answer. The answer to this question allows you to assign the appropriate amount of time to the task. If it is imperative to your future, you should allocate more time. I assign a number between one and 10 based on how much it could affect my future. The higher that number, the more time I schedule for that project or task.
The answer to this question helps you put the tasks on your list in perspective. You will notice that there are tasks that seem very important but really are not, and other tasks on your list you keep pushing off that are actually extremely important. Most of these tasks are the ones I call the working “ON” your business tasks. Planning, clarifying your message, identifying your ideal customers, and setting clear policies are all examples of working “ON” your business tasks.
Reviewing this question makes the working “ON” your business tasks so important because it will reduce and guide the working “IN” your business activities. Posting on social media is more effective and takes less time when you know who your ideal customer is. Answering customer emails regarding customer service issues takes less time and is less frequently required because you clearly state policies that make sense to your customers.
You know what e-commerce platform to pick and the tone to set in your email marketing blasts because you took the time to create a business and marketing plan. All those working “ON” your business tasks no longer get pushed aside. You are not focusing on the “what” of the project but on how much it affects your future.
3. Does the action “produce” or “consume”?
When thinking about everything you do throughout your day, this question allows us to pinpoint the highest priority actions. To create success in all areas of your life, the percentage of time spent producing must be greater than the percentage of time spent consuming. And while we have to consume some to grow and learn, today’s world is set up to focus on consuming. Social media is designed to keep your attention and entice you to consume more.
How many times have you jumped on Facebook to quickly send out a post, and 20 minutes later, you’ve forgotten the whole reason you logged on? Our phones notify us constantly so we can consume more for others. We have screens everywhere that allow us to consume any time and any place. Reading this article is consuming.
The reason for this question is to ensure that we take action more than we consume. Can you take the information from this article and produce a system to go from frantic to strategic? If you are constantly consuming, even if it is helpful, useful information, it all just becomes “shelf help.” The information sits on the old dusty shelf in your brain, and nothing is done with it.
The great part about measuring tasks with this question is that it gives you the right not to spend time listening to the next training or signing up for the free webinar if you don’t plan to schedule a time to implement the information. Producing, creating, or taking action has to outweigh consumption. And it is essential to understand what producing means for you in the context of success.
It could be the production of a physical thing for your customers, but it is also so much more. It is implementing new ideas, taking action on opportunities, and even creating your future success in your mind through business planning, masterminding, and more. Producing means growth, improvement, and moving forward. Consumption is just that – consuming resources with no apparent gain. It’s living someone else’s dream while your purpose and desires wait for you to take action.
Utilizing this question helps you reframe certain activities that seem like time wasters. Carving out 30 minutes to an hour for watching your latest guilty pleasure on Netflix becomes productive because it produces that rest and recharge you need to get on to the next task. Scheduling a 30-minute walk in the morning before starting your day becomes the action that creates the mindset to stay focused and get the right things done. Focusing on doing things that will help you produce allows for a strategic perspective.
When we control our priorities, those busy days feel like a success. You get in the flow, and you feel yourself moving forward. I’m excited to hear how you are going to make 2023 a year of being strategic as opposed to frantic.