Five Tips to Getting Your Priorities Straight!

How can you be a family-centered business professional or entrepreneur? Do you feel like you need to compromise both? When I feel like I need to be one or the other, I get grouchy and feel frustrated. I find myself thinking about living for tomorrow as opposed to living in the present. Inevitably, I feel like I’m not living in either world to the best of my abilities or enjoying it.

Can we be family-centered, still love our career and contribute financially to our household? Is it possible to have the best of all worlds? There are many people that I have the privilege of working with that have been able to delicately navigate this “balance”, however, it takes practice. Consider these five tips:

1. Get clear on your perfect day

Are you clear on what your perfect day looks like? How hard have you worked lately to get clear on it and to make it happen? Or do you feel it’s not possible and why bother? Well, I can tell you it is possible and it is worth pursuing it.

One of the leaders that I’m working with owns a very successful business that operates from multiple locations.  Not only is it profitable, but it gives back to the community. Before he even begins his week, he maps out his priorities and makes decisions about his time based on that. Anything he feels someone else can do or may be better or more efficient in, he delegates. He’s still able to run his successful business prioritizing what he most wants and needs. This means he has a great relationship with his now adult children and his wife, with plenty of time for leisure, fitness and fun, and all the while business is going well. In fact, he’s a great influence on me because he’s always pushing me to ask the question if I’m running my business as close to my perfect day, every day, as I can.

What about you, have you mapped out what a perfect day looks like and how much does your current day look like compared to your perfect day?

2. Scale back 10 to 15%

Prior to starting my own business while in a corporate job, I was not feeling like I was competently giving what I needed to my family as well as at work. My business mentor said, “What can you cut back 10 to 15%?” My answer was, “Well nothing, I actually need to do more and I just don’t have time to do more.” She said, “Well I don’t believe it. I believe strongly that you can cut back at least 10% and I know this because if all of a sudden you got sick, you would have to. If all of a sudden, your kids got sick, your mom got sick, you’d be motivated to figure it out. Find 10% of your time, take it back as if you’ve already reached that crisis point.”

Putting it that way, I knew she was right. As soon as I started to look for it, I was able to notice that there were things I was prioritizing that I didn’t need to. There were things I was doing no one had asked me to do that might only have been important to me. And my standards were very high. I pulled back, and you know what, nobody noticed! I even seriously scaled back a few very public tasks (e.g., moved my weekly newspaper column to monthly) with no repercussions.

To this day, now running my own business, I’m very conscious about things that I do with my time and am constantly evaluating if I’m best using my energy.

3. Delegate

As soon as you can afford to hire somebody to do some of the things you don’t have to do, then do it. It doesn’t have to be full-time too. In the “gig economy” (of which almost half will be in across North America within the next few years), you can hire someone to do just about anything for you!

For those of you working in organizations, you likely don’t have to be in the C-suite or have an army of staff to delegate. Maybe there is someone who wants to have an opportunity and is willing to take over your spot on that committee, lead that project, create your next presentation. Delegation isn’t just getting things off your plate, it’s giving others opportunity too.

No matter what your role is in the organization, share the load. And then share the praise for a job well done.

4. Schedule the most important things first

In a previous blog, I talked about the many ways you can prioritize what’s most important. Only you can decide what’s most important, so when was the last time you created that priority list? And then, did you discipline yourself to schedule the most important things first?

Sometimes people think I’m only talking about scheduling work. I also mean fitness, family time, and all the other things you feel are important in your life. Whether it’s blocking it in your calendar, picking regular times until your passions are built into your life like habits, or putting reminders on your phone, find your way to block the important things. And encourage your coworkers, peers, staff, and family members to do the same!

5. Know your top three priorities

When we look at the book, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, it shows us very clearly that as soon as we have more than three priority tasks, then we dilute our effectiveness. In times when I’ve let my business go on autopilot, latching onto the latest thing I’ve learned, getting carried away with a new project idea, or chasing a potential new market with no clear reason why, it’s wasted not just time and energy, it’s made me feel tired, resentful and guilty that I don’t have as much focus or time for my family. We don’t have a finite amount of attention or energy, so we owe it to ourselves and those who depend on us to invest it wisely. In other words, just because our time doesn’t cost us anything, and we assume there’s always more energy where that came from, the reality is that’s not the case.

If you’re feeling frazzled, distracted, and stressed, chances are you’re also not feeling productive, creative or a sense of accomplishment. Chances are you have too many priorities and when everything is a priority, nothing is. Perform better by doing a few things really well and then move onto the next. I have made this my mantra this year, and as a result, I have read, written, relaxed and exercised more in the last six months than in the previous few years. And my business isn’t suffering because of it, but actually the contrary.

I hope you found these five tips helpful.  To discover more about how you can better prioritize what’s most important in your work and life, why not jump into my calendar for a 15-minute chat. Perhaps I can help you find the right combination that works.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve