If I say yes to this… what am I saying no to? How clear priorities can bring you balance

Oct 12th, 2020

If I say yes to this… what am I saying no to? How clear priorities can bring you balance

“The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

Stephen Covey

As homes across the world double as offices, nurseries and schools finding a positive balance in life is increasingly challenging as we adapt to new ways of working.  Inevitably the boundaries between work and home life are blurring as we endeavour to find some kind of routine and structure amidst continuing change and uncertainty.  In a 2020 survey, the Official Public Record reported 66% of employees feeling that stress from work filtered into their home life.


Although every one of us has exactly the same amount of time – 168 hours a week – our experience of that time can be very different. I am often struck that while some people feel they have a never-ending and draining to-do list, others who share the same challenges of busy roles in high stress environments, manage to live a more balanced life.  And a key factor is that they prioritise what they give their time and attention to.


Once we give importance to something – we tend to make time for it.  One of my clients, a senior executive in a property partnership, has always attended his children’s sporting events, shared the school drop off and taken regular exercise. But he doesn’t squeeze these in, he makes sure they are an integral part of his schedule, because he is clear that they are essential for him. They give him the balance he needs to bring a positive mindset to work and so a framework for him to be a more effective leader.  By simply reframing what is important to us, we can unlock a different behaviour that enables us to find balance and happiness instead of becoming stuck in overwhelm.


Prioritising activities around home, work, and ‘me time’ are key.  Yes, during these times the schedule may sometimes get hijacked, but generally it works.  Shortly before taking paternity leave, another client took a vacation and, while he was away, three key members of his team were poached and rendered their resignations. He decided to step in and speak with them and managed to turn their decision around – he knew he was the only one that could do that.  However, he made sure that he protected his time during his paternity leave, as he saw this as time that he could never make up. His team respected this and were empowered to make decisions.


Are you unable to share your attention between the different spheres of your life? Are you feeling out of balance? Here are some pointers to help you become time smart.


1. Do more of what you love

Successful people often acknowledge that their career was built on knowing their strengths and their weaknesses – and doing more of what they enjoyed. After all, what excites us is usually what we’re good at. This self-awareness gave them clarity when accepting new roles and accelerated their career path.

You may find it helps to write down what you enjoy (and recognise what drains you) and use it as a useful reference to leverage and develop your strengths.


2. Build a diverse team

The smartest leaders build a diverse team with skills that complement them rather than falling into the trap of recruiting people that are similar to them and so easier to manage. No leader is good at everything, so fill the gaps with people that are better than you at the things you least enjoy. They may sometimes be more challenging to manage, but it’s worth it for their contribution since it enables you to focus on what you are good at where you can excel.


3. Delegate

Invest time in developing your team so you can delegate sooner not later. All too many capable leaders inadvertently develop cultures of dependency, which means decisions are delayed because people don’t have the confidence to make them independently. Added to that, the leader finds themselves unable to switch off. To help you delegate ask yourself 3 questions:

    • What will I never delegate?  – this is my role
    • What can I delegate now? – this is preventing me from fulfilling my role
    • What can I delegate with time, with training, to whom?  – this is a development goal that can be motivating and aid succession planning.


4. Start succession planning early

I coached a team of 10 emerging leaders last year who were earmarked as leaders of the future, and they were assigned projects and roles that would grow the business and identify their capabilities.

During Covid 19 their development plan was accelerated considerably.  They really stepped up, revealing exactly how they reacted to pressure.  This experiential learning, which happened quicker than they had planned, has been invaluable and, due to restructuring, many of them are now playing a key role in the continuing success of this global business.


5. Have focused meetings that impact   

Interactive team meetings that energise and one-to-ones that build morale and improve performance are vital. In my experience, one-to-ones too often have no clear purpose. I believe that the purpose of a great one-to-one is to motivate, give clarity and provide direction. In just half an hour, you can build a resilient mindset and motivate, clarify what’s working and what could be even better, and set a clear action plan to build success. I have created a simple agenda with 4 questions that cover all you need, which clients find invaluable.


6. Rethink your to-do list around your roles

If you feel overwhelmed by a long to-do list and unable to find your priorities, try using the different roles you play as a guide. We all have many roles in our life – yours could be business winner, client relationship manager, chairperson of  meetings, or strategy planner, plus parent, wife, husband, or community helper. Note down your key roles and make a list of the priorities in each one that week and plan accordingly: the next big meeting you have to chair may be several weeks away, for example, freeing you up to finalise a pitch for an exciting prospect and/or find the perfect table for your anniversary. This helps manage time in a motivating way and keep a balance between the professional and the personal.


7. Create Space

Decluttering your workspace, wardrobe, or even a file has remarkable impact on our minds.  As our anxiety increases during these times Marie Kondo says “tidying provides you with a strong foundation to ask questions of yourself: “What’s important to me right now?  How do I want to live?”


8. Book some ‘me’ time

When you have too many balls in the air, it’s important to resist the urge to be on 24 hours a day. During lockdown, a client created the habit of having a lunch break with his family at 1.00 every day – it was scheduled in his diary and it was a welcome break that he looked forward to.  Make sure that you also set time aside in your schedule for you. Use it to read, walk or reflect and quieten all the noise around you. You may find that you’ll suddenly find a simple solution to something you thought would take hours!


Next Steps:

If you would like to clarify the goals and priorities that will fulfil you and help you find your centre, why not consider a bespoke Vision Day, focused on and built around your own individual needs. You may also find our 1-page one-to-one agenda useful – for a copy email me at info@potentialplus-int.com


If you would like to know more about what our clients have gained from our coaching we have lots of testimonials that you might find interesting.


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Related articles:

Taking back control – because what your actions today will influence where you are a year from now  

How do I keep my team motivated in this new reality?  – 7 steps for you and your team to stay energised

Authentic Leadership – The secret to thriving in tough times