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What are you telling the world is important to you?

When I teach my productivity workshop, I start with a simple exercise. I encourage you to try this too and not just read about it.

Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half. On one half, write down the priorities in your life. Include personal and professional things that are important to you. Think about your various roles – partner, parent, boss, colleague, whatever. Also think about areas like health, personal and professional development, strategic thinking, reading, etc. Go ahead and do this now.

Now, on the other half of the page, write down how you actually spend your time. Use your calendar and think back about how you have spent the last week or two. Most people who do this notice some pretty big gaps. They may say that being healthy is important, or spending time with their family. And yet they can’t remember the last time they worked out and are spending so much time at work that their family time has taken second place. At work, so much time is taken up with meetings and email that some strategic goals may be suffering.

I have heard all of the excuses too (and made them myself) – this is a busy time, I will get back to it, I went to the gym last month - or was it the month before . . . there is too much on my plate!

We judge ourselves by our intentions, others judge us by our actions

The bottom line of all of this is simply that how we spend our time communicates to others what is important to us. Even if we think differently, our actions tell everyone otherwise. What are you telling the world is important to you?

You will never achieve your goals if you don’t put in the time. That is an incredibly simple statement but one which is also really important. None of us has any more time than anyone else, it’s all about how we use it. When we have a mis-alignment between our goals and how we spend our time, that can lead to stress and dissatisfaction.

I remember reading one time that there is a big difference between people who want to be authors and those who are actually writers. Writers write, because that is important to them. Wanna-be authors talk about “someday” when they will get around to writing their book. They may spend time envisioning what their life as an author will be like – fame, riches, whatever. What they don’t do is sit down and write. As I write these lines, I am aware of the file on my computer labelled Novel that has not been touched for far too long. I have started and kept up with this blog, I am 2 steps away from completing my coaching program, and I have other things I am proud to have accomplished these last few months. I need to get back to that novel too.

Now it is also important when figuring out your priorities to figure out what should not be on your list. Maybe there is a reason something is only an intention and does not show up in your actual work. In the trunk of my car is a set of Learn to Speak Spanish CDs. It was in the trunk of my previous car, and the one before that. I have listened to the first CD a couple of times, but to date my knowledge of Spanish is limited to ordering from El Azteco restaurant in East Lansing Michigan (the best Mexican restaurant in the world, or at least near the MSU campus). As soon as I post this blog, I am going to move those CDs into my box of library giveaways. While I would like to know how to speak Spanish, I clearly don't want to spend my time on that.

I am going to clear the clutter from my list of priorities and then next blog, I will share some ways to really determine your goals.

Now go make it happen -- Tom

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