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The 7 No’s: “Know” your Priorities And Say “Yes!” to Life

The 7 No’s: “Know” your Priorities And Say “Yes!” to Life

Priorities vs. Time: A Constant Struggle

A few weeks ago, my friend John Arnold shared a story with me about his friend, who had time management and productivity problems. Frustrated by his number of upcoming commitments, he turned to John as if a light bulb had suddenly gone off in his mind and said, “I just need to learn how to say NO!”

John replied, “Friend, you are great at saying no. You are saying no to your family, no to your health, no to sleep, no to exercise, no to staying hydrated, no to having fun and no to living a life that is meaningful and purposeful to you.”

What a powerful insight. Do you really know your priorities? Or, are you saying “No!” to life?

  1. No! to your family?
  2. No! to your health?
  3. No! to sleep?
  4. No! to exercise?
  5. No! to staying hydrated?
  6. No! to having fun?
  7. No! to living the life you want?

The Time Management and Productivity Concept of LIMITED CAPACITY

Time is a zero sum game. Whatever you choose to allow into your life automatically prevents you from using that time for any other activity. You have to choose between one activity or another.

Your time is limited to 24 hours each day. In the world of time management and productivity, it’s called “The Concept of Limited Capacity”.

 

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The Glass Half Full

     

    A container can only hold the capacity it was created to hold.

    It doesn’t matter if you intend to put more into a glass, it doesn’t matter if the glass wasn’t filled to capacity yesterday and it won’t change anything if you try to use a different glass. The capacity of a container is the maximum amount it will hold.

    Your Calendar and LIMITED CAPACITY.

    • 168 hours per week
    • 24 hours per day
    • 8 to 10 hours per day to work

    Your calendar has a limited capacity, and once it is full of obligations and commitments then, just like the glass, it will reach maximum capacity. It is at that point that something inside your soul recognizes the incongruence between the life you envisioned for yourself and the life you are actually living.

    Life is experienced by the choices you make about how you spend your time. Right now, at this moment – you are experiencing life. Right now – life is passing you by.

    In many cases, you are experiencing the life you have agreed to experience – by choosing how you will spend the minutes of each day.

    The LIMITED CAPACITY of Time: Heart, Body, Mind, Soul

    Every morning you wake up with a new day, an empty glass so to speak. Many of us have work commitments, but when you look at your calendar, what do you see? Pull out your smart phone and review the activities and commitments you have scheduled for today:

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    •  8:00 am staff meeting
    • 10:30 am budget report due
    • 11:00 am call with vendor
    • 11:15 am lunch meeting with client
    • 2:00 pm teleconference with marketing team
    • 4:00 pm dentist appointment
    • 6:00 pm choir practice

    You arrive home at 8:15 pm and still need to clean the house, do the laundry, cook dinner, check your personal email, pay the bills, etc. This isn’t life. This is a list of obligations.

    If your calendar looks like the one above, you have chosen to react to life, rather than plan how you want to live it.

    LIMITED CAPACITY of Life: Heart, Body, Mind, Soul

    Plan in advance. For the next few weeks, rethink what you are really saying “No!” to.

    In order to say “Yes!” to life, there needs to be a framework of non-negotiables. These non-negotiables are your personal priorities. Without establishing priorities, men and women across the world experience stress, anxiety, frustration, irritability, fatigue and low self esteem because they don’t allot enough time for personal priorities.

    Here are four foundational priorities that many people are currently saying “No!’ to, simply because they are not consciously aware that their work and personal priorities are so far out of balance.

    Say “Yes!” to These 4 Priorities

    Block off time for your Heart

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    How much time would you like to spend with the people you love? Make your heart a priority.

    Block off time for your Body

    Block off time for your body. Exercise, nutrition, hydration and sleep are critical to experiencing the quality of life you want to have. Finding time to exercise can be challenging. Some people enjoy getting up at 5:30 am to go to the gym, but there are alternatives. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stop and walk for fifteen minutes twice a day. Walk at night with your family, or take up a sport with your kids. And, really – how hard could it be to drink a minimum of 60 ounces of water a day and sleep seven to eight hours? Block off the number of hours you will choose to sleep.

    Block off time for your Mind

    Humans are curious creatures from birth, constantly challenging ourselves in various ways to find entertainment and novelty. The actual neural circuits in your brain either grow stronger through use and stimulation, or weaken and die if you are not regularly challenging your mind. Read books that contain stories of courage and bravery and you will become more courageous. Make an appointment to meet someone brilliant in your industry, spend a morning with them and you could gain years worth of wisdom.

    Finally, Block off time for your Soul

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    This really should have been first, yet it is often the first thing we ignore. When you are overwhelmed, your soul grows cold and numb. It is not that your soul is sad or happy. It is that you have unknowingly lost touch with your soul.

    You wake up one day and you wonder:

    • Why am I so tired?
    • Why am I stressed?
    • Why am I overworked?
    • Why don’t I feel like my life has meaning or purpose?

    These are soul questions. Humans are deeply rooted with the desire for their lives to matter. We want to make a difference in the world. We want to have an understanding of why we have been placed on this earth. Each of us has unique strengths and talents, yet we lose connection with our true soul. Somewhere along the way, we’ve reached the maximum capacity of time and willingly let other projects, tasks, committees, and even volunteer opportunities fill up our days with things we do – not the life we live.

    How can you fix this?

    Choose to Say “Yes!” to Your Priorities

    1. Yes! to time with your family
    2. Yes! to your friends
    3. Yes! to exercise
    4. Yes! to better nutrition and drinking more water
    5. Yes! to sleep
    6. Yes! to choosing one new thing a month to learn, grow and stimulate your mind.
    7. And, say Yes! to taking time to re-connect with your priorities and purpose. Rediscover what you believe is most important in your life. Think about what makes your life meaningful and what will make a difference in the lives of those around you.

    By choosing to say “Yes!” to your priorities, you choose to reconnect with your heart, body, mind and soul.  This will reconnect you with your life.

    P.S. One of my priorities was to reconnect with my soul. One week ago, I said “Yes!” to going skydiving. The 120 mph free fall was amazing! What will you say “Yes!” to today?

     

    Featured photo credit: Allyson Lewis via fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net

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    Allyson Lewis

    Allyson is a nationally acclaimed author, motivator, speaker, time management, productivity strategist, and executive coach.

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    Last Updated on April 22, 2021

    How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

    How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

    Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

    Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

    In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

    One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

    “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

    Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

    Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

    Motivation Is Not the Answer

    How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

    If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

    We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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    Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

    Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

    How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

    Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

    1. Define What a Win Looks Like

    In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

    Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

    Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

    When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

    4 Steps to Define a Win
    • Know the outcome you desire.
    • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
    • Write the outcome down.
    • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

    Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

    As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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    Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

    2. Evaluate Your Activity

    Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

    Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

    Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

    Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

    • Do now
    • Plan to do it later
    • Delegate to someone else
    • Delete it

    Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

    • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
    • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
    • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
    • Does this activity have to be done at all?

    Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

    3. Prioritize Your Calendar

    If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

    First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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    It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

    “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

    Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

    “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

    Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

    It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

    4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

    We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

    Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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    Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

      But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

      “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

      Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

      Use these questions to reflect on your day:

      • What went well?
      • What didn’t go well?
      • What can I change?
      • What do I need to start doing?
      • What do I need to stop doing?

      The Bottom Line

      Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

      Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

      “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

      Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

      That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

      More on Creating Healthy Routines

      Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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