Here’s something to know about me. I love making a good first impression. When I arrive on the scene, especially in my professional life, I want to show up at my best and have big impact right away.
I don’t think this is a bad thing, and I also don’t think I’m alone in this. My guess is that those of you reading this also want to shine bright when you show up at work, and I think that is a noble ambition.
Here’s what I’ve learned the hard way – being amazing at work can have consequences in other areas, especially if the cost of being amazing is a less-than-stellar personal life. If we spent some time together, I could share some tough stories of times that I’ve been winning at work while losing in other places. The truth is, finding some sort of healthy relationship between your personal and professional life is a bit like walking a tightrope. I had plenty of days where it felt like I was always falling off one side or the other.
While I’m not perfectly balanced (I don’t know if anyone is), I’m happy to report that I am healthier than I’ve ever been when it comes to the relationship between my personal and professional life. I’m productive at work, and I’m present at home. I’m reaching my professional goals, and I’m practicing good self-care in other areas. It took me a while, but I feel really good about my progress. As I look back on my own journey, I’ve identified two key practices that have steered me in the right direction.
I became ruthless with my priorities.
I know – everyone talks about prioritizing. There isn’t a single person reading this article who had to Google that word to know what I’m talking about.
Let’s be clear – understanding priorities isn’t our issue. Practicing a prioritized life is where we get tripped up. We know the principle, but we fall short on walking it out.Dr. Ben Redmond
I certainly fell into the category of knowing about priorities without putting them into practice. That changed for me when I decided to get clear on my priorities and create a plan to live them out. The first step involved blocking out several hours on my calendar to create my priorities.
I drew a bullseye target in my journal, and put the most important things in the innermost circle. My marriage, my kids, my spiritual life (think purpose), my personal health, and my inner circle of friends. The second circle had my primary work and another group of important relationships. The third and fourth circles had secondary work, hobbies, and other various activities.
With my priority list created, I moved to my calendar. I spent intentional time making sure that I was prioritizing the inner circle (family, close friends, personal life). This didn’t mean that I quit my job, but it did mean that I made sure that my work (2nd level priority) wasn’t doing damage to my 1st level of priorities. When I discovered that I was slacking on some commitments I’d made to my family because I was working part of almost every Saturday, I made the change to my calendar.
My next step was to apply my new priorities to future decisions. Before I said yes to a new project, activity, or even a weekend of football – I took the time to make sure that my choices would not violate anything that was a higher priority. This process took time and practice, but today it’s become second nature.
I fell in love with saying no.
This was a hard one for me. I love the shine that comes with saying yes, and I love the feeling I get when I exceed people’s expectations. Here’s the principle that I had to learn – every yes is a no somewhere else. This is not just a cute saying – it’s actually a principle that is true 100% of the time. If we are honest, we’ve gotten pretty good at forgetting what we’ve previously said yes to when we are responding to new and exciting opportunities. I started forcing myself to consider the real-life ramifications of saying yes to new things, and I realized the ugly truth. I wasn’t just saying yes to the new thing, I was also saying no to things that were higher on my priority list. So I made a simple commitment to myself – I stopped saying yes right away.
If you are impulsive and ambitious like me, this one commitment could very well change your life. The next time someone offers you an amazing opportunity, ask for some time to think about it. I’m not talking about months here. Most of the time I only need an hour or so to figure out what I’d be saying no to if I say yes to this new thing.
With this new principle guiding me, I started to do the actual hard work. I said no to something. It was a great opportunity that would have made me look really good. The problem was that it would have forced me to say no to a commitment that I had made with my son. So I thanked the person for the opportunity, but said that it wasn’t the right time for me. You won’t believe what happened next! Nothing. That’s right – nothing happened. The sky didn’t fall and the world didn’t end. What I did get, however, was a deeper connection with my son. I also got to avoid that feeling we all have when we overextend ourselves and inadvertently let the wrong people down.
This process of living by intentional priorities and learning to say no is an ongoing one for me. But my overall satisfaction and health has increased since I made these choices.
We are coming up to the end of another calendar year, and I can’t think of a better time to get clear on your priorities and start saying no to some things so you can say yes to the right things. Here at Five Capitals we are cheering you on in this journey.
If you would like some help getting clear on your priorities, I’d love to talk with you. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.