A friend and I had a conversation about how we will manage our priorities in the New Year. Amazingly, we have very different approaches, and they are both good. As a designer and facilitator of Leadership and Professional Development, I tend to manage my own priorties in similar ways to goal setting and ongoing coaching for annual performance appraisals. This blog will give you two perspectives on managing priorities, and offer an example of my process. Here's the impetus of my thinking: In his award-winning speech titled "More than one right answer," National Geographic photographer, DeWitt Jones shows us how there can be more than one right way to accomplish something. In his case, the accomplishment was telling a story through imagery. In the case of my friend and I, the accomplishment is managing our time in such a way that we accomplish our goals and feel good about how we accomplished them as well as the accomplishments themselves. My process adopts the late Steven Covey's method of beginning with the end in mind. My friend's process is a moving meditation. Both options demonstrate that there is "More than one right answer," which I love. I'll start with my process first:
“Begin with the end in mind.” My approach to managing priorities:
Beginning with the end in mind for me means coming up with a list of accomplishments that at the end of the year I'll be able to ask and answer the following questions:
Question 1. Did I accomplish this goal in whole, in part, or at all?
Question 2. What did I learn?
Question 3. How does this support my becoming?
Here’s an example of my process:
In driving a pathway to success, I put my imagination to the end of the timeline. Each major goal that I list then gets backed up into smaller steps until it becomes a timed and daily walk. One example is the category of Good Health. At the end of the year, I’d like to be able to report that my health and fitness have improved. More specifically, “On December 31st of this year, I see my body as being slimmer (128 lbs), more toned (defined arms, flatter abs, firmer glutes, sculpted legs), and achieving an A1C of 5.2 or below.” I set a gradual goal by Quarter and then whittled it down to daily. Q4 exercise 6 days per week, with a healthy diet of veggies, fruits, and legumes 5 days per week. Yes, I like days of flexibility, also known as “cheat days.” Q3 is exercise 5 days per week with 4 days of focused healthy eating. Q2 is 4 days per week of exercise and 3 days of fruits, veggies, and protein. This led me to our current reality of Q1, exercising 3 days per week and focusing on healthy eating 2 days per week.
How is this realistic and measurable?
Beginning with Q1, knowing that if I work to make this routine a habit, it gets easier from here, I know that exercising 3 days per week equates to 38 days out of 90 days. 42% of the days in Q1.
How is this attainable?
With 7 days in a week, I can hustle up and exercise the first 3 days, spread it out by exercising every other day, or some other combination that works well for me and my fluid schedule. In addition to giving myself a weekly number of times to work out, I also set the intention of making this time “sacred time.” This means that I am prioritizing this time. Intrusions of schedule, outside of family emergencies, are not negotiable. No staying late for a meeting. No going over on a phone call. Nope. Not happening. If someone wants time with me, or if I want time with someone, it can happen, if it’s outside of that time that I hold sacred for attending to my health.
Here’s how I am working toward answering the questions about my health goals at the end of each week, each quarter, and at the end of the year:
For week number 2 of this year, this is how I reviewed my goal of Better Fitness and Health: “On December 31st of this year, I see my body as being slimmer (130 lbs), more toned (defined arms, flatter abs, firmer glutes, sculpted legs), and achieving an A1C of 5.2 or below.” Yes, these are examples of my real goals. Please read this with respect for the courage it took for me to share my personal business with you. In other words, refrain from offering constructive criticism about my goals. You can offer options and comments about my process, just not my goals.
Answer 1. Did I accomplish this in whole, in part, or at all? This week, I accomplished the goal of better health. I worked out 3 days this week. 2 days, I went to the gym as planned and took a 1-hour class that focused on cardio and muscle tone. 1 day, I did a workout at home. My calendar said “Go to the gym,” but my muscles were too sore. To keep myself from self-sabotage, I did an hour of stretching, combined with arm exercising using 10lb dumbbells while watching television.
Answer 2. What did I learn? I learned that I can prioritize my health. It takes a bit of planning and commitment, but it’s not as difficult as I thought. This has me excited and hopeful about my goals.
Answer 3. How does this support my becoming? “Your health is wealth.” I’ve heard this so many times through the years. It’s starting to be something that I embrace. One of the benefits of being self-employed that I value theoretically, but may not demonstrate as much as I’d like to, is making time for self-care. I’m becoming more free by taking care of me.
Setting goals for myself is similar to the way I tend to support communicating an employee’s progress through the performance appraisal process. I don’t set a goal at the beginning of the year, walk away, and come back on December 31st to surprise myself with how well I did.
“Another right answer!” my friend’s different approach:
Each day as a moving meditation means that at the end of each day, my friend takes an inner scan and asks about the day. Was today a good day? Do I feel good about my participation in the day? This is simple, elegant, and doesn’t have the complication of data crunching. My friend’s measurement is a reflection of each day. Beautiful! In the words of DeWitt Jones, this is “Another right answer.” So much so, that I include that scan at the end of my day. When I am reflecting, I now ask myself “Hey, Toni? How was your day?” And yes, I answer myself! Whatever the answer, the follow-up question gives the previous answer deeper meaning. “Hey Toni: Do you feel good about your participation in the day?” I make certain to jot down a couple of bullet points about my response. For example, the other day my response was “I do feel good about my participation in the day. It was a full schedule without much breathing room in between calls and meetings. What made me feel good was the quick response time I was able to give to customers and my team. Another thing that felt good was the quality of the conversations today. There seemed to be better connections and more meaningful outcomes. This is something I value. Having it be part of my day made me feel good about the way I showed up.”
Adopt, Adapt, Connect:
If you found any value in my process or that of my friends, please adopt what works for you.
If you have a process that works for you, I’d love to hear it. Email me at Toni@PhoenixConsultingCo.com