We've all learned since childhood the importance of time management and prioritization. We have planners and online calendars to help us keep track, our smartphones alert us at every minute of the day where we are needed and often times, the best leaders have deadlines on their mind even when they're sleeping.
However, if you want to be not only an excellent leader, but someone on the path toward achieving your life goals and turning your vision into a reality, you have to learn a skill that everyone seemed to forget to teach us: honor your priorities. It's easy to do what you're told, follow an agenda and say, "yes," to everything. But the ability to hone in on what's most important to you is something that sets the exceptional apart from the simply good. So, are you ready to prioritize your priorities?
Adaptable versus malleable: Know the difference
The key to honoring your priorities is to understand that while adaptability is a crucial leadership quality, malleability is certainly not. As Inc. pointed out, the ability to adapt to new people, situations and requirements is very important, even late in the game. However, even when your company's or your own personal priorities are clear, unexpected situations will arise and leaders need to be able to adapt quickly and intelligently.
Learn to honor your priorities.
On the other hand, it's easy to lose track of priorities when you're being pulled in dozens of directions. Life circumstances, employee needs or even advice from a peer or colleague can sway you in a direction away from your goals and vision. If you want to honor your priorities, you have to be able to say no when doing so means you are more likely to be successful.
How to put your priorities first
If you're willing to be adaptable and also champion for your own priorities in both business in life, you need to have the skills to do so. There are many different strategies for approaching your priorities with the commitment and dedication needed for success, but here are five that can be extremely helpful:
1. Know your power
Honoring your priorities means knowing your power, worth and ability to achieve your goals. As Forbes pointed out, successful people are aware of their power and unafraid when it comes to expressing their thoughts, opinions or needs. The best way to demote your priorities is to develop a mentality that they are not worthwhile, realistic or important. Instead, exceptional leaders must know that they set priorities for themselves because they want to achieve great things and improve their lives. Knowing your self-worth and capacity to succeed will put you on the right path toward success.
"Honoring your priorities means knowing your power, worth and ability to achieve your goals."
2. Assess value
Every day, aspiring leaders need to be prepared to assess the value of each task and commitment. Whether it's a one-off project, an office meeting, a networking event or dinner with a friend, it is important to determine how each activity will provide value to your life and help you actualize your goals.
With this in mind, it can be helpful to employ the 80/20 rule, which states that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. This means that 80 percent of what you achieve toward your larger aspiration each day should come from 20 percent of the effort you put in toward reaching those goals. Whatever you do, make sure you are optimizing your time in a way that honors your priorities.
3. Practice self-awareness
No matter how successful or capable you are, you simply can't do everything. However, it's easy to get off track or forget your priorities, especially if you're an extremely ambitious person. Instead, practice self-awareness. Know your limits, your needs and your own path to fulfillment. Understand that there may be people on your team who are better suited to complete a task. Delegate or simply say no if necessary. Remaining self-aware will help you give your priorities the respect they deserve.
4. Approach each day with goals in mind
Never forget your goals. You are aspiring for greatness and yearning to change your life for the better, which means you've set your priorities strategically set with those ends in mind. If you approach each day with the mindset that you want to get at least one step closer toward achieving your business or personal goals, then it will be much easier to make room for your priorities and not let them get off track.
Above all, never forget to communicate. Express to your friends and family the importance of achieving your goals. Tell the people working above you that you need help or extra time. Share your struggles with a mentor or executive coaching mentor. If you're a great leader, chances are the people you work with will always want something from you whether it's advice, expertise or help on a project. Beyond that, you also have personal relationships to nurture. The best way to approach this reality is to always communicate and advocate for your priorities.
As a leader, it's difficult to know yourself and really develop a tangible vision without priorities. And even once those priorities are set, it can be challenging to ensure they remain exactly what they are - priorities. By keeping these strategies in mind as you go about achieving your goals, honoring your priorities will only become easier, and you'll be closer to turning your vision into reality than ever before.