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Four Disciplines for Managing Your Priorities

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Thu, Jun 14, 2012

Discernment should be a gift we all have with the talent to use it wisely.  One of the greatest challenges we face is how and where we spend our time. 

Suddenly with AML my most important things to do changed!  Everything I do needs to be planned around doctors, blood counts and risk of infection.  In a few hours my life can go from being peaceful and content at home to hurrying to the hospital because I’ve developed a fever.

I don’t believe I’ve ever had a better teacher on prioritizing than what I’m going through right now. time & energy management resized 600

Technological advancements should enhance our ability to manage priorities.  My inconvenience with AML has made me more aware of how interruptions, challenges, and obstacles can make our lives difficult to manage.  I have to be better at managing my time and energy simply because I have less available to me. 

Each day I still plan my top six priorities. 

At Gazelles we teach our clients the legendary Charles Schwab story how Ivy Lee got his team to be more productive simply by writing down their top six priorities for the next day and then not moving on to number two until one was complete. 

Regardless of advancements it still comes down to discipline to make sure you are working on the right things and getting the right things done.  It’s a repeating theme in our practice of Strategic Discipline.   So with that in mind here’s a short list of disciplines to consider to help you manage your priorities better:

  1. Choose Your Top Six Priorities Each Day. Absolutely do not end your day before or begin the next day by writing down your top six priorities for the next day.  I like setting my priorities for the next day at the end of my work day.  It gives me time to consider if I’m prepared well enough for what’s on my calendar and challenges me for the next day.  Many times looking at my priorities for the next day caused me to work a few hours longer to make sure I’d get to or complete the priorities I’d set for the following day.  When you know where you’re going, or what problems you need to solve, the brain continually works on solving them. I feel it gives me a little extra advantage  as all night long my subconscious helps me work out what I’ll do tomorrow.  You may choose your priorities in the morning, no problem as long as you follow discipline #2

  2. Critical First Hour. Begin the first hour of each day focused on your number one priority.  Time passes so quickly.  An email, phone call, interruption, and suddenly it’s noon. Where did the day go you wonder?  Start the day with a full hour focused on your top priority.  It takes the mind 22 minutes to get up to speed on anything you are working on and we all are interrupted on average every 7 minutes. No wonder we get nothing done.  Lock the doors, close the blinds, do whatever necessary to guard your one hour of focused time on your number one priority.  In no time you’ll be amazed that the priority has been completed.

  3. Revere Precision and Specificity. In addition to scheduling your top priorities, make sure to schedule the time you plan to complete them. In Discipline Scheduling - Three Keys to Building Effective Rituals research shows you can improve your follow through on priorities from 29 to 91%simply by scheduling when you plan to complete them.  Most of us are in too big of hurry to get things done to plan when we will actually do it. This simple act improves your follow through dramatically!  That’s why scheduling the first hour of the day #2 is so important. 

  4. Take Planned Breaks. Our bodies and minds work best when they pulse.  Contrary to popular belief working 2,4, 6, 8 and even 10 straight hours without a break is not productive.  Every 90 minutes schedule a short break to give your mind and body time to recover.  Get up, take a short walk, even visiting the bathroom is better than continuing to plow through.  We plan our Gazelles workshops whether public or private to have breaks every 90 minutes.  I’ve been blessed with the ability to take short cat naps.  It’s a great refresher.  Almost a day never goes by where I don’t take a 10-15 minute break to nap after lunch. Choose what works for you.  Managing energy is more important than managing your time, since your energy level determines your productivity.  See more on this from The 90 Minute Solution, by Tony Schwartz.

Hope you find these disciplines helpful to you.   The results of my Monday biopsy will be revealed to me today.  I hope to have good news to provide.  Since we’re on the subject of productivity next blog we’ll revisit Pearson’s Law.  

Topics: Discipline, Acute Myeloid Luekemia, priorities, precision and specificity

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Positioning Systems Brand Promise

1. Priorities: Determine your #1 Priority. Achieve measurable progress in 90 days.

2. Metrics: Develop measurable Key Performance Indicators. 

3. Meetings: Establish effective meeting rhythms. (Cadence of Accountability)  Compounding the value of your priority and metrics. 

(BRAND PROMISE GUARANTEE): We will refund all compensation if our disciplined coaching and proprietary tools fail to meet your expectations.

Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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