Are you living a life you love? If you aren’t clear on what you want, your life will live you, instead of the other way around. The busier and more successful we get, the more important our time becomes. No one put this better than Steve Jobs in his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, after his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.
He spoke to the graduates about the power of listening to their intuition when deciding how to spend their limited time. “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” he said. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
Whose Life Are You Living?
I believe that by internalizing that our lives are finite, we gain powerful leverage for creating a life we love. We don’t plan to wake up each morning and say, “I choose to work on someone else’s priorities and goals today.” Yet we do this unknowingly because we are wired to help others. Over time, we wake up and wonder where our own priorities and goals have gone.
Especially for considerate people who want to please others, the opinions of our peers have can be powerful, making it difficult to follow our own voice. Have you ever been influenced by the comments of well-meaning friends or relatives? Or have you ever been at an event and when asked what you do, wished you could answer in a different way? In one way or another, our peers opinions can sway how we design our own lives. However, becoming comfortable with the limited time to live your life allows you to let go of other’s opinions and get clear on what is most important to you.
Essential Six Exercise
In my experience growing a successful business while juggling family and responsibilities, I’ve learned that my subconscious often has the answers I seek. Tapping into your subconscious and harnessing its power will help you uncover your most compelling goals for your business and your life.
To guide this process, I use the “Essential Six and Most Vital” exercises, which will begin transforming your life as soon as you begin to use them. In the Essential Six, you will identify your top six professional priorities for each day; the Most Vital is the big goal you must accomplish each week.
Before you leave the office at the end of each day, list the Essential Six things you must accomplish the following day, in order of importance, and add them to your calendar. Doing this the night before allows your subconscious to begin to work on your tasks in advance—to prepare for the day ahead. Don’t worry about getting to exactly six items, three can be just as powerful. The trick is to get clear on what is most important and tackle the most critical task first.
Each morning, start working on your number one task first and do not move on to number two until you have finished number one. You may not get through all six items every day, but by focusing on your most important priority and getting it done, you will be surprised by how much more you accomplish overall.
Your essential six do not have to be exclusively business-related, but could be other tasks you consider a great use of your time. For me, they are often tasks like working out, meeting with a valued prospect or client, making a potential acquisition call, attending a webinar, or going on a date with my wife.
Every week, it is also important to set your Most Vital—the top goal that is tied to your overall business success. Naming it at the end of the week or on the weekend gives your subconscious the opportunity to work on it, so you will have clarity going into the week.
My Most Vital for the week is almost always tied to my number one company priority for the quarter. I try to dedicate the first ninety minutes of my day to working on it alone, usually before anyone else is in the office. The clarity and focus this process offers allows me to devote my time to the tasks that make the most impact on my business and life.
When you are clear on what you really want to get done, it will be a lot easier to say no to distractions. The more focused you become, the more effective you will be, and the more willing your team will be to mobilize behind your latest initiative. That, in turn, will free you to focus on what you’re most passionate about at your business. Suddenly, you will be busy with balance.
Adapted from The Sustainable Edge.