Choosing Priorities: Managing Your Time and Energy
Updated: May 26
Do you ever ask yourself, “What’s the most important thing I should be doing right now?” I know I do.
I once heard Brian Tracy, the motivational author, state that that is the most critical question you can ask yourself. As a result, I often repeat the phrase to my clients. But, really, if you make it a point to ask yourself this question, how long do you pause or reflect before diving into the first thing that pops into your head? Personally, I am relatively quick to write ideas down and then start projects based on this fast-start approach, which explains why my Kolbe assessment result had the highest score (an eight) in the action mode, “Quick Start.” At least for me, the problem here is that my “Follow Thru” and “Implementor” scores were only a three, and my “Fact Finder” is a seven. But what does this all mean?
For me, it means I take time to gather a lot of facts before I initiate solutions. I’m a quick starter, which means I deal with risks by improvising, creating a sense of urgency, starting change often and fluidly, etc. But my follow-through score means I create shortcuts, revise my approach, and thrive on interruptions.
Bottom line – knowing your Kolbe scores can help organize your world, but it’s what you do with this information that matters most. My Kolbe report says this about me:
“You spend 38 percent of your time and energy with your Quick Start driving you toward the uncertainties of the future. You’re challenged by immediate deadlines, thrive on suspenseful situations, and run toward complex perplexities. Then, your Fact Finder strength makes sure you’re not wasting time on low-priority tasks.”
The report goes on to suggest that I need to “skip from one thing to the next without finishing what I start,” and an excellent way to start my day is to “decide what you are not going to do.”
In other words, I’m likely to procrastinate if I have to follow a highly structured format or system. So, here’s the irony. I work with my clients every week to set individual priorities and every quarter to establish individual and team priorities. It’s a disciplined practice of minimizing the many trivial activities that get in the way of focusing on the vital few priorities that yield the highest payback in terms of results. But, without knowing the client’s modus operandi (natural intuitive way of doing things), it’s not going to work well unless I coach them through their blockages. This is why so many entrepreneurs come to me. They have tried and failed to self-implement EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) or the Scaling Up methodology. And, so I start with priorities.
Power, Energy, and Mindset
You need to focus your energy on priority items. Otherwise, you’ll have nothing left when it’s time to deal with the bigger stuff. When you optimize your time management, energy management, and emotional/mental management skills, you’ll have plenty of fuel to achieve your priorities.
Power, energy, and time are the keys to getting the right stuff done. When you increase your energy and decrease the time it takes to do the work, your power grows. That’s a simple way of putting it, but it all boils down to this: if you want to achieve more power, you’ll need to think about how you manage your energy and how you spend your time.
To make the best use of your time, you need to approach high-priority tasks when you can apply maximum energy to them. For me, I can increase the power and duration of my focus by getting quality sleep, exercising regularly, eliminating distractions, and working on stuff that energizes me. If I manage to keep this up, I’ve got plenty of energy to apply to the things I do.
Your mindset plays a vital role in how you accomplish things, how you manage your time. We only have so much of it, so the only way you’re going to get more is to sleep less, work more, and take time away from your family and other things you like to do. Of course, working more is a fast track to burnout, and sleeping less robs you of brainpower. If you continue to think this way, you’ll never be able to make decisions with a clear head.
So what’s the solution? Time management. But more specifically – priority management and energy management. A simple concept, perhaps, but it’s not always easy in practice. When you prioritize some tasks, others will have to take a backseat.
Vital Few/Trivial Many
The key to prioritization using the Vital Few/Trivial Many techniques is to discriminate between things that absolutely require your input and those that do not. The goal is to focus your energy on those vital few and then decide what you’re going to do with the trivial many – delete, delegate, redesign, or outsource.
If you’re spending too much time on the trivial few, then you’re taking time away from the things you should be doing as a leader, activities that advance your vision and strengthen your business. If you want to grow your business, you need to replace yourself in jobs that do not highlight your value to the company. If you’re not doing this, you’re devaluing what you bring to the table in just about every way. Bottom line – play to your strengths. Otherwise, all those “trivial many” tasks will sap your energy.
Inadequate energy management leads to poor decisions, plain and simple. Your physical, mental, and emotional fitness are vital to your health and the health of your business. When we manage these things well, we bring that vitality to the work we do. That passion will help us work more effectively and efficiently, which, in the end, gives us more time to spend doing the things we love (outside of work).
In Chapter Nine of my book, Disruptive Successor, I dive deeper into time and energy management and offer actionable strategies to help you plan and prioritize. As always, I encourage you to purchase a copy. In it, I share a wealth of information that’s helped countless clients of mine grow and scale their family businesses beyond their wildest imaginings.
Next week we’ll talk more about priorities, building a great team, and creating a culture of accountability within your organization.