If you answered “yes” to the above question, then quite possibly you do not have a clear concept of your priorities. Without a clear sense of what is important to you and what activities will get you closer to your goals, then everything you do will have the same level of priority. You will constantly be pulled in many directions and may begin to feel like you’re working hard, staying busy and not accomplishing what you want.  Your difficulty is a lack of focus. Oh, what IS a person to do?!

Make a list of the top two to six tasks (“top pay-off activities”) that, if you preformed them with consistency, would produce the results that you want.  As an example, here are the top pay-off activities, in order of priority, of a client who is a business owner: 1) Planning, visioning, goal setting; 2) Leading and managing to company goals and plans; 3) Delivering the message and overall communications (Internal Ambassador); 4) Cheerleader and Coach to team members; 5) Recruiting and hiring A-Player talent; 6) Meeting with key clients, suppliers, bankers, Centers of Influence, and other stakeholders…the Rainmaker (External Ambassador).

Notice that even the top pay-off activities must be in order of priority.  Why? So that when my client has to make a choice of where he allocates his time between the above options, he is clear on which of the activities is the most important; which one will give him the greatest bang for his investment of time, so to speak. As a result, he makes better choices.  Everything else that comes his way (interruptions, some emails, some phone calls, etc.) is evaluated against the above benchmarks of importance. This client is in control of his time and in a better position to decide how he uses it. Consequently, he is more focused and has accelerated the achievement of his goals. In addition, he’s not fighting as many fires because he’s more proactive in preventing crises through better planning and preparation.

I recommend that regardless of your position in the company, “planning” is your No. 1 priority and top pay-off activity. With good planning and preparation, you will spend less time putting out fires. Just think of the potential of what you could accomplish!