Prioritize Your Goals and Workload With These 2 Key Tools!
What most entrepreneurs and business owners fail at, whether they realize it or not, is prioritizing.
Prioritizing sounds simple in theory—all you have to do is focus on the most important tasks. But how do you prioritize when it feels like everything is equally important?
Let’s face the facts here: you only have a limited number of hours a day to get work done, your most precious resource is your energy and ability to focus, and nothing kills a business more than burnout.
If you’re not prioritizing your life, I guarantee that someone else is going to start doing it for you, whether you like it or not.
What you, as a business owner, need to do is figure out what truly needs your attention and what can be automated or delegate. That ensures that you’re always working on your business instead of just spending all day working in it.
So, starting today, get your priorities straight by following two simple steps.
Step #1: Set a Goal Pyramid
First thing’s first, let’s establish your number one priority. That big picture goal you’re working toward. Write down what position you want your business to be in a year from now. From now on, you spend every day working toward that goal, and it’s your number one priority from here on out.
Now, and here’s the important bit, break down your big picture goal into smaller milestones.
The biggest mistake people make when prioritizing is that they get overwhelmed by the big goal they’ve set for themselves. It feels like there’s too much to do so they just give up, or they start stabbing blindly at every task that comes their way and end up falling drastically because there is no method to the madness.
The best way to avoid this pitfall is to create a Goal Pyramid.
Developed by Matthew Michaelwicz, author of Life in Half a Second, he credits the success of his four, multimillion-dollar businesses to this very simple diagram.
Basically it’s a way for you to visualize your overarching goal and all the steps that need to go into it for you to achieve it. This allows you to confidently break down what needs to happen and in what order it needs to happen.
Obviously you’ll start at the lowest tier and then gradually work your way up, so you can now be confident in knowing that every piece is falling into place and that you’re on the way up to the next tier.
From here it’s straightforward, in concept at least. If you find yourself working on something that doesn’t feed into the tier you’re trying to advance, or even worse, isn’t part of the pyramid at all, stop. If you find yourself working on things that don’t directly help you move up that pyramid, there’s a good chance you can delegate or automate.
Now that you’ve set and brought some sequential clarity to your big picture goals, let’s start focusing on how to identify what tasks you can automate.
Step #2: Use psychological distance to master your focus
There is a concept in social psychology known as construal level theory, which states that the subject’s psychological distance from an object determines whether they think about that object in a more abstract or concrete way.
Abstract thoughts focus more on the big picture, the central features that capture the overall gist of the situation or object. Whereas concrete thinking is more focused on the details and what’s happening in the present. The more psychological distance there is, the more abstract our thoughts become, and vice versa. Our thoughts become more concrete when there is less psychological distance.
One of the classic examples of psychological distance in action can be seen in the planning fallacy, which describes how we never budget enough time for an upcoming project, because too much distance means we’re not grasping the details. On the flipside, not enough psychological distance and we get the “can’t see the forest for the trees” effect, whereby we’re bogged down in the nitty gritty and overlooking high-concept problems and solutions.
There are four different types of psychological distance that affect our perceptions: temporal distance (time), spatial distance (physical space), social distance (interpersonal connection), and hypothetical distances (the likelihood of an event or situation occurring).
It sounds a bit complex, but learning how to effectively manipulate psychological distance can give you greater focus and clarity when it comes to prioritizing what actually needs your attention and what should instead be automated or delegated.
Think of it like using a mental zoom lens, willfully changing whether you are taking the 30,000-foot view, or you are down in the weeds hacking through the details.
For example, when you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, figure out which lower-tier goal in your pyramid you’re working toward. You want to increase psychological distance between yourself and that objective. You can do that in a few ways—by imagining it is happening in a country across the globe, or being overseen by a stranger instead of you, or that it’s an imaginary, hypothetical project, and not something you’re actually working on. This will help trigger your high-level, abstract thought patterns, and get a grasp on what’s truly important and belongs on your radar as a leader. From there you can begin to push other tasks off your plate.
While zooming out will be most beneficial when identifying high priorities, zooming in (shortening psychological distance) also helps you with time management and planning. After all, a manager who is only looking at goals in the abstract is liable to let things fall apart in the execution. Closing distance helps us get our heads around what needs to get done, and what resources you will need to do it.
So to shorten temporal distance, imagine a scenario where everything is happening the next day; it all need to get done now. How would you handle that situation? What are the most immediate tasks that would be in front of your company and what kind of time or resources would you need to dedicate to execute them?
By simply taking the time and asking yourself these hypothetical questions you’ll actually be adjusting the psychological distance between yourself and any given project or goal, an essential skill for prioritization.
Do You Want to Prioritize Your Goals and Workload?
When it comes down to it, your most precious resource will always be time, not money.
If you’re spending time on tasks and projects that don’t need your attention then you’re just wasting your time. Use tools like the goal pyramid, and practice skills like mastering psychological distance to figure out what truly needs to get done to move your business forward.
Then take advantage of the employees you have, the software you use, the team that surrounds you, and start automating, so you can focus on what’s important and grow your business.