Knowing What’s Essential
It can be a real struggle to focus when so many things seem to require our attention. My own to-do lists used to be long and rather ambitious. Then, I started noticing that the more I tried to do, the less I got done. Now I know that I accomplish my best work when priorities are clear and few.
How do I know what is most essential to do each day, month, quarter, year, decade? There are plenty of proven approaches for prioritizing (time, tasks, and more). Here are a few that have worked for me (and that are backed by research).
- Use ambition situationally: Different situations in your life require either more or less ambition. Assess each situation for what is needed – where in your life are you determined to achieve a lot, and where do you want to reserve energy and not feel the need to give it your all? Knowing those few things that merit your energy can support your ability to prioritize.
- Give intuition some credit: Pay attention to how much ‘noise’ you allow in, things that might cause you to go down rabbit holes. In fact, “the quieter you become, the more you can hear” said Ram Dass, known for helping popularize Eastern spirituality and yoga with the baby boomer generation in the West. There are often multiple directions you can take for any endeavor. Listening deeply to your inner knowing can help create focus, especially where you feel most convicted and motivated.
- Play pretend, to raise the stakes: You can use the power of pretending to envision something that does not currently exist. Why would you do that? It is one form of creativity and could help you get unstuck and/or shift typical ways of thinking. For example: To prioritize my focus, I often pretend I have just one day left to get one thing done and ask, what is that onething?! Looking out, you might ask what is that one thing you want to say you have done in ten years from now?
Priorities allow you to focus on what matters to you and create the impact you want. I have learned that creating a lasting, positive impact happens when I am discerning with my ambition, in touch with my intuition, and raise the stakes to help create laser focus.
This Week: Examine your ability to prioritize. Ask yourself a few questions to affirm you are focused on what you want in any given situation:
- Why do I want to achieve what I have chosen to do?
- What is at risk if I don’t achieve those things?
- Which approach can I try to help identify what is most essential to do?
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