Prioritizing Success

You know the feeling: It’s 5:30, you just got home from work, and today is the day (so was yesterday and the day before) that you promised yourself you would get down to business on that side project you’ve been putting off. Maybe your project is a plan to start your dream business, that novel you have been thinking about for years, or just getting around to cleaning out the garage. Either way, once you’re off work, it’s hard to find the time—or the energy—to take on the large projects that you never seem to be in the mood for.

First, you have to consider what is getting in the way of accomplishing your goal. Do you make plans to go out after work every day? Do you usually eat your dinner in front of the TV and just keep on watching? In today’s digital world, it’s easier than ever to waste time. Between checking email, Facebook, Twitter, and the Netflix instant queue, people waste precious hours every day. If you devote three hours each day to these distractions, that’s an entire day of your week. By the end of your life, that’s about ten years.

You can’t expect coffee to get you out of this one. Instead, it’s time to reconsider how you schedule your days, and how your learned behaviors are the number one factor holding you back from achieving something noteworthy outside of work. Time management gurus suggest writing out a list of all the activities that make up your day and putting a percentage next to each item for how much time it takes. Then make a separate list of how you want to spend your day in order to accomplish your goals. Though simple, this exercise is a great way to break down the specific activities in your life that need to be rebalanced.

Consider this. The psychological definition of procrastination is putting off high-priority tasks for low-priority tasks, and this behavior is often linked to anxiety about tackling something important. Instead of fearing the projects that could help you achieve greatness, think of the peace of mind you will get from taking a priority off the back burner for good. Beginning with a simple project, like organizing your garage, can be the boost of accomplishment you need in order to change your attitude. So start small. Think of something minor you’ve been putting off. Dedicate a couple hours to knocking it out, and see how satisfying it is to actually complete a high priority task.

The next step is the big project — the novel or the business idea. Imagine the small steps you can immediately start taking toward the finish line. Think of those ten years spent on distractions. Put those time management lists up on your fridge or your bathroom mirror. The people who start their own businesses and achieve their dreams don’t just get fewer emails than the average person. They make their dreams a top priority, sacrifice little distractions for the big picture, and embrace life’s challenges with a sense of adventure.

Ellisa Brenneman has started green businesses and has vast experience managing public, media and investor relations for small-cap public and private companies. Since 2006, Ellisa has been the President and Owner of Ethos 360. Ethos 360 provides entrepreneurs with custom business plans written by a team of experts, one-on-one business consulting, professional branding services and corporate finance coaching so they can launch and grow their businesses. Visit www.Ethos360.com for additional information.

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  • Sam Zipursky

    Hi there Ellisa, thanks so much for writing this post, really great read. Love how you give us the image of 10 years of time that could be used more effectively or I guess differently towards achieving goals we've set out. Thanks!

  • Judith Nockson

    Thank you for this post Ellissa. It is really what I needed for today to refocus myself.

    • Michael Zipursky

      Judith – thanks for your comment and I agree. Great article Ellissa, appreciate you sharing!