In my work with entrepreneurs and clients and in and in my own life I see constantly this battle against time and, consequently, this need to prioritize. We all know about the importance of organization and prioritization, but how can we do that? For most entrepreneurs everything is equally important, as they are the bottleneck in pretty much all the decisions of their business. In our personal lives, we also find sometimes lost, with no strategy on how to go about things. Whether to attend an event after a busy day, whether to take some free work or not, whether to do someone a favour that could pay off later, whether to take a break to do some personal and professional development...I am sure you have been there asking yourself: should I?
As always, there is no one size fits all answer, but I developed a framework that I found a very useful starting point. When approaching a decision that needs to be made about whether to do something or not, I try to see where could it fit better:
- Investment: Am I planting the seed for something good here? Clarify to yourself what good/successful/interesting means for you in this particular context. An example of investment could be to pay $2000 for a two day seminar on transformational leadership. In this example, the question could be something along these lines: Am I going to get the learning, tools and networks needed to advance in my career and my role as a leader in this company? Depending on the context, the type of investment will be tangible or intangible, measurable or not, but the key is that every investment has 1) an opportunity cost and 2)a foreseeable, desirable gain, so you have to identify both. In the example, the opportunity cost is the things I won’t do with these $2,000 and the potential gain the advancement in my career, so more reputation, better salary, better chances and connections…
- Collecting: Am I gathering something of value from this action? this can mean money (Am I getting paid for attending this event?), contacts, reputation, potential referrals, personal well being (Am I going to feel emotionally and physically better after this break?)…again, whatever it is, it needs to be worthy for you and be an improvement of your current situation.
- Wasting: the opposite of collecting, which means a worsening of your current situation. It could go from wasting money on the wrong investment, hire or website domain (being there) to -the worst of all- wasting your time on something that didn’t report you anything.
Once you have decided what type of action are you dealing with (an investment, a collection or a waste) you can proceed in the best way given your circumstances. For me the key when deciding what box to put things in, is to think holistically. Something could be an investment or a collection in one aspect of your life but a waste in other (e.g. attending an event at 7 pm could be an investment professionally speaking but a waste in the personal arena). Thinking holistically means to understand what arena is most important for you at that moment in time. Just you know the answer and just you can make the decision. And if you are honest with you, and answer it from the right place, you won’t be wrong.
Before wrapping up, a short note on the last category. In case you feel tempted to recycle, this is for you:
4.Recycling: not all the waste is the same right? some experiences that we thought were a dead road and a waste of time or energy end up surprising us and giving us something back. Maybe we thought that meeting was a waste of time, but surprise surprise, two months later we got a new client through a referral from one of the grey guys sitting silently in the corner. These things happen, and is amazing when you get your time/money/energy back in an unexpected way. But as this is out of your control, I recommend to take this category as a bonus, rather than not put anything on the rubbish bin (a.k.a say always yes) because your are afraid of throwing something valuable to the trash (a.k.a FOMO). You eventually will. That’s ok, it’s part of life. My rule here: don’t try to play God and if you feel something is a waste, file it and let life and serendipity do its job.