Are your priorities BS? Well, focusing on that area in particular, looking at what are the things in my life that really are important to me? What are the actions that I want to take and need to take that are important to me? Even if they’re not urgent, how can I get those things scheduled so that they have a better likelihood of getting done?
David: Hi, and welcome to the podcast. In today’s episode, co-host Jay McFarland and I will discuss the topic Are Your Priorities BS? Welcome, Jay.
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Jay: Hey, David, as always, such a pleasure to be with you. And another great topic. I think that it’s so easy to just do the squirrel thing or the squeaky wheel gets the grease and we don’t really know what our priorities should be a lot of the time that’s half the battle I think.
David: Yeah, I think that’s true. Knowing what our priorities are and recognizing that a lot of times they’re not really what we think they are. And most of the time when I talk about stuff on these podcasts, it’s not because I’m particularly smart, is because I feel like I’ve made every stupid mistake that anyone can make.
And so if I can help our listeners and viewers to avoid doing some of those things, then that’s a pretty good service. And when I think about priorities and I reflect on the priorities that I’ve had over the years and over my life, I recognize that we have priorities that we really put out there.
We say, okay, this is what’s important to me. What’s important to me is my family. What’s important to me are my friends. What’s important to me is, whatever, losing weight, like if we have goals, my my priority is to do this and to do that, and all these different things.
And then when we look at our actions and we realize that our actions don’t really line up with what we say our priorities are, it raises the questions are our priorities BS?
And I think in some cases, even when we don’t realize it, they might be.
Jay: Yeah. First of all, I’d say there’s nothing wrong with learning in the school of hard knocks. I mean, sometimes those are the best lessons we can learn. But I also think it, we can spin our wheels a lot trying to reinvent the wheel, so learning from other people can help expedite that process.
Right? Which is why I’m glad you’re so willing to share the trials that you’ve had. I think that that’s so critical. But I think you’re right. We’ve talked a lot in the past about self assessment. Can you really look at yourself and know what your weaknesses are and what your strengths are?
And oftentimes, I think you’re right. We think something is a priority for us, but in the grand scheme of things, and according to our own actions, it’s really not. And we’re kind of fooling ourselves.
David: Yeah, and the way that I’ve actually sort of worked through some of this is recognizing that there’s a really big difference between our stated priorities, the things that we say are priorities to us, and then our actual priorities, meaning the priorities we act on the things that we do, the actual steps that we take or don’t take.
Because if our priority is to spend time with our family and our actions are that we’re working all the time and we’re not spending time with our family, then we have two different sets of priorities, our stated priorities that always sound good, and then our actual priorities, which is what we’re doing on a daily basis.
Jay: Yeah, I see this all the time in like TV reality shows. I don’t know why this comes to mind, but you see people saying, my family is the most important thing to me, and they’re working 80 hours a week at their career, or their job.
And I’m sitting there thinking, Hmm, no, I don’t think you really understand what your priorities really are.
David: Yeah, and most people are sincere, I think, when they say those things. It’s just that in many cases, life interferes. And when we allow life to interfere, then it turns out that our actual priorities are different than the ones that we’re telling ourselves and telling other people.
Jay: So how do we sift through that? How do we do that self assessment and really identify what our core priorities are, and maybe we need to identify them as BS and head in a different direction.
David: Well, I put together a worksheet. You can download it here. It’s very simple. It’s basically got stated priorities on the left and actual priorities on the right, and what you do is you list down on the left hand side all the things that I tell other people and that I tell myself are my actual priorities.
And then you just keep an eye on what you’re doing every day. Did I take action on my top priority on the left hand side of the page? And if I didn’t, what did I do instead? If my goal is to write a book and instead I slept until 10 30, then I’ve got a stated priority and I’ve got an actual priority.
And so when I’m working with clients, these are some of the things that we look at. What is it that is most important to you? What is it that you believe, that you truly believe is most important to you? What do you believe your priorities are, and then what are the actions that demonstrate what your actual priorities are?
Jay: Yeah, and I think, people have specific priorities, but they get trapped in the every day. So it’s not like it isn’t my priority and the priority’s not really BS. What is BS is that I’m, not doing anything towards it. I’m letting my business run me instead of me running my business.
David: Yeah, I mean, a personal one for me is like I’ve been losing and gaining the same 10 pounds for probably 20 years, right? So if my priority is actually to lose 10 pounds or whatever it is. But then I have a conflicting priority, which is, “oh, dessert!” Right? Then those two things are in conflict.
And every time I choose the dessert, which is the actual priority, it’s the action that happens over the stated priority of losing the weight, then it really is BS. It’s BS to say that this is the goal, if the actions on the right hand side of the sheet are not going to correspond to that.
And that’s where I feel like, by calling ourselves out on it, it might encourage us to take the actions that we need to take to accomplish the results we’re looking for and to really get our priorities in order.
Jay: Yeah, and let me tell you, there’s nothing to be ashamed of, of breaking even on weight loss. David .Losing 10, gaining 10, at least you’re not completely losing that battle. So that’s something to be proud of. So we talked about the worksheet and identifying your priorities. And making sure they’re not BS.
I’m guessing then you want to set a path, you’ve got to break that down into smaller chunks or something. You can’t just say, “oh yeah, that’s my new priority,” or that I’ve identified it. You’ve got to talk about how you’re going to get there. Right?
David: Right. So when we look at the left side of the page and we compare it with the right, and we determine that, okay, our actions are not in line with our priorities, then it’s a matter of looking at each of those priorities and breaking each of those down into projects and tasks essentially.
So a project is anything that requires more than one action. A task is basically one action, right? That’s the way I break it out. So if there are a series of three or four things that I need to do to accomplish that, then those are three or four tasks.
If there are three or four or five or 10 related things that belong to an entire project, then I put it in the form of a project. And the way that I manage my time is that I use a time planner that allows me to use different colors for different things.
So I use one color for projects and another color for tasks because I can look at it and say, okay, here’s a task. This is something I can knock out relatively quickly. And when you know which goals, which priorities your projects and tasks line up with, then you can always be taking action on something that is actually important to you.
Jay: Yeah. And I think you’ve hit on something very key as part of this process is by writing things down, by having a color code, by doing those things, you’re giving yourself kind of back testing, right?
So you can look back and say, okay, you know, do a monthly assessment. I know people who spend a couple hours on Sundays just reflecting back on their previous week and saying “Did I really make my priorities, priorities?”
And so that process of writing it down, whether it’s digitally or some people still use day planners, you know, they actually still use paper. That drives me crazy. But I understand, because that’s got to be an important part of the process.
David: Yeah. And I think the calendar is really an important part of the process because we could do another podcast called “To-Do Lists are BS,” right? Because I feel like in a lot of cases they are.
If you have a to-do list that has a hundred things on it and you don’t get to most of them… If you’re getting to the most important things, then it’s worthwhile. But if you’re not, then how do you fix that?
And generally, the only way that I’ve ever been able to fix it is to budget time on the calendar for those specific activities, block it off just like you would any other appointment and say, “okay, from this time to this time, this is what I’m doing.”
Turning off the phone, not answering calls focused on doing this just as if I were having a meeting or an appointment and making that appointment with yourself. I’m sure I’m not the first person to recommend something like that, but for me, just moving things from a to-do list onto a calendar helps a great deal. As long as you’re willing to follow through on what’s on your calendar. And if you’re not, yeah, then you got some real issues.
Jay: Yeah, it’s really a place where I struggle. I kind of have a good idea where my priorities are, but moving them into a schedule, I still have the tendency to just kind of do whatever I feel I want to do. that’s the life I want to live, as opposed to the things that are most important in that moment.
And that comes from the fact that I haven’t identified and categorized them by level of importance. And so, again, I’m letting the mayhem of the day, and my own emotions, dictate what I’m working on at any given time.
David: Yeah, I remember reading the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and he referenced, I think it’s called the Eisenhower Matrix. I think Eisenhower is the one who came up with it originally or popularized it. You can download it here
The idea that you draw a cross on a piece of paper and you break out your priorities according to urgent and important. So one of the Sections is urgent and important.
Another one is urgent, but not important. Another one is not important, but urgent. And then not important. And not urgent. Okay, that’s it. Breaks out something like that. And of course, the things that are not important and not urgent are probably the things we shouldn’t do at all. But very often they’re the easiest things to do.
They’re the most tempting, and they get the attention. The things that are urgent and important tend to get done because they’re urgent and you have to do them. But the sweet spot is the area that is not urgent but important, and that’s the area that tends to get neglected in favor of the other areas.
So, even doing something like that, breaking it out and saying, “okay, what are the most important tasks that I need to get done? What are the most important actions I need to take that I haven’t taken that are not time sensitive?” Because that’s what always nails us. If there’s something that’s time sensitive, that’s going to jump in ahead.
And then the other category of not important but urgent, a ringing telephone, for example. Some people might view that, if they’re required to answer it, as urgent. And in that case, you don’t know who’s going to be on the other end. You have no idea how it matches with your goals or your priorities. You end up taking the call and at that point you can be derailing your success.
So focusing on that area in particular, looking at what are the things in my life that really are important to me? What are the actions that I want to take and need to take that are important to me? Even if they’re not urgent, how can I get those things scheduled so that they have a better likelihood of getting done?
Jay: Yeah, I love that. So figuring out first what your priorities currently are. Are they BS? Then identifying what you really want those priorities to be, and then creating a plan and scheduling that plan. Such great advice. How do people find out more?
David: Well, you can go to TopSecrets.com/call to schedule a call with myself or my team.
If you’re struggling to get to the results you’re looking for because of whatever, if it’s time management, if it’s a failure to actually address your own priorities, you know, there are combinations of things that can help.
One of the things that I think we struggle with sometimes, and this might be a good topic for a future podcast, is the fact that in some cases, we think that more energy and more effort is going to fix the problem.
But if the things that we’re doing are designed to create average results, then putting time and energy into them is just going to create average results faster. It’s not going to create exceptional results. And so by changing the activities that we’re engaged in, maybe changing the way that we’re doing some of those things, the results change dramatically.
So if that makes sense to you, if you’d like to have a conversation, TopSecrets.com/call. We would love to talk with you about that.
Jay: All right, David, we really appreciate you sharing your experience and what you’ve learned from trial and error and this service that you offer where people can just talk about it, because I think that’s a great place to start. Thank you so much for joining us today.
David: Thank you, Jay.
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