Before getting offended, please indulge me in pondering how you determine your daily priorities. Do you keep a constantly running daily list that plays in your brain like a Spotify playlist on repeat? Perhaps you follow a GTD-like system. Or maybe you track your priorities in Evernote. Maybe you are all about the tech, and therefore use one of the burgeoning number of productivity apps, including my favorite. Ah, you old school purist you, writing your priorities, to-do’s, or tasks on pen and paper – nice! Or maybe you don’t even bother.
What if I told you none of these techniques are making much impact compared to a concept I am about to introduce? Furthermore, what if I disclosed this idea is not my own? Oh come on – THAT should be no surprise!
Let’s discuss my source with a bit of background. My favorite audio podcast of late comes from the enchanted land of Missoula, Montana, where Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn reside. These two young thirty-somethings are known as THE MINIMALISTS. I mean hell, I have Eagles records older than these guys. But do not equate a paucity of facial wrinkles with a lack of hard-earned wisdom. In the last few years these guys have pumped out multiple books, a bevvy of thought-provoking essays you can find on their site, and a soon-to-appear documentary film. They have also attracted millions of worldwide followers, myself included. And no, it is not because they tout a life of deprivation…ya know, like living out of your 15 year old Subaru, picking up nasty cigarette stubbies from the sidewalk in order to smoke the rest, slurping down stolen ketchup packets from the local Carl’s Jr. and of course meandering the streets of your local downtown wearing nothing but a Hefty trash bag as an overcoat while strumming on an old banjo because you just love your ‘Americana.’
Nope. To me anyway, their seeming mission is for each of us to consider a life filled with less in the way of needless physical possessions in order to become more inner directed, intentional and purposeful. I believe a huge reason for their popularity is simply due to their many examples and easily absorbed lessons on how we can increase our awareness, apply more focus on our health and relationships, and spend more time contributing to a greater good while living out our passions – simply by HAVING less. In contrast, perhaps our endless quest to acquire and maintain costly ‘collections’ of rapidly depreciating consumerist crap doesn’t do much more than drain our savings and fill our minds with useless clutter not to mention our local dumps with slowly decomposing mierda.
Arguably, these guys are not only self-proclaimed minimalists, but even more importantly are among the new breed of highly impactful personal development thinkers helping us to bring out the very best in ourselves. And this brings us back to the topic at hand.
“Our priorities are really how we spend our days. It’s what we do.”
– THE MINIMALISTS
Mother f’ing BOOM. Is there really any more to consider in relation to our priorities? This lifetime quotable comes from a shorter than usual podcast episode THE MINIMALISTS released early this week focused exclusively on priorities. You might opine, “Of course! What else could it be?” Great, and so how are you making this concept ‘real’ in your life? Because if you actually spent 50% or more of your time today building that upcoming Sales Kickoff presentation, and this was your intended priority, then you are on solid ground. But what if you spent four or more hours consuming long forgotten television ‘classics?’ Hey, if this is what you set out to do this morning, then rock on! But since I doubt this is the case…
Please do not fret, bunky. Here is a three step process to make this work for you. Put it to work for a week or a month. Come on, indulge me! Here is how.
Oops. First I need to reveal another source of inspiration for what I’m about to introduce in Step #2, Internet Marketer Eben Pagan. I ‘think’ I riffed this concept from his “Wake Up Productive” coaching product. Eben is worthy of a separate article ‘some day.’ Meanwhile, here are the three steps:
ONE – Each morning, take no more than five minutes and write on a piece of paper your top five priorities for the day. If it takes more than five minutes, then consider that what you’re writing out are not actual priorities.
TWO – Attach time percentages to each of these priorities as follows: #1 gets 50%, #2 gets 25%, #3 gets 13%,#4 gets 6%, and #5 gets 3%. At this point I think you are getting the idea to spend the most time by far on your top priority, i.e., half of your workday. And you will likely start juggling the order of this list repeatedly. Good! Yes, I know you have this thing called a j-o-b with a boss who downloads her priorities into your brain, plus meetings, email, yadda yadda yadda. And sure, there is a strong argument to be made for spending plenty of time ‘managing up’ and making your manager’s priorities yours. But without the focus in applying Steps #1 and 2, you may inevitably fall victim to the numerous distractions that befall so many of us, thus serving as a lifetime disappointment to your manager, spouse, mother-in-law, kids, pets…
THREE – Each evening, take five-to-ten minutes and track what you actually spent your day doing. This is where the novel concept espoused by THE MINIMALISTS comes into play. Let’s say your morning intention is way off from your actual behavior for the first few days. This is beautiful in that it informs you of your opportunity for improvement, which can only lead to increasing your productivity if you follow through. For example…
Now you can investigate rituals such as removing unnecessary repeat meetings from your schedule, and routinizing minimal time blocks at set periods of each day for creating and responding to emails. With your newfound time, you can book the crappy conference room nobody ever reserves with the HVAC system that sounds like an ancient propellor plane, turn up some Groove Salad on your earbuds, turn off your phone and laptop notifications for anything at all, and fire up a few 25 minute Pomodoro rounds during which you focus on doing one thing.
I don’t know who our next President will be or whether more goodness or evil will prevail upon us as a result.
Will the S&P 500 end on an up or down note in 2016? Heck if I can figure that one out – I just do whatever Jim Cramer tells me to with my liquid fortune (but not really – yikes).
However, I am quite certain that following this three step method will help you become more intentional in identifying and living out your priorities every single freakin’ day. Of course these priorities matter. What you do always matters.