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The Ability of Leaders to Pick and Choose.

By May 9, 2018February 14th, 2019Articles, Leadership

Pick and choose“Action expresses priorities” Mahatma Gandhi

There’s a key point I make in my ‘Busy? What are you busy doing?’ workshops that really encourages people stop and think about the real meaning of their language when we tell others we’re ‘too busy’ to return a call, respond to an email, send them information, show up to a meeting on time or catch up with them. What we are really saying is they are not a priority. Harsh but true. Because it’s a simple fact – you will do what you prioritise. So it’s what you are prioritising that is the biggest issue.

In our world of constant distraction there’s so much to take our attention. Pings, dings and vibrations constantly take our focus away from what is really important. That may be from loved ones, important work or connection with our leadership. Our attention span is limited because there is just so much to do and so little time to do it in, so we believe.

In his book ‘the subtle art of not giving a f*#k’, Mark Mason practically grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you into realising you can’t do everything nor can you give a flip about everything. You need to prioritise what is really important to you and make sure you do that. It’s an interesting and a counter-intuitive read but it’s honest truth and a reflection of the society we are living in today. If you want a strong dose of reality, give it a read.

Understanding what your priorities are is one of the biggest casualties I am observing from our busyness. I am not simply talking about the ability to prioritise your to do list, I mean understanding the priorities to your leadership, your life and your business. It’s understanding the few key things that are important to you and that are aligned to you living your best life and doing your best work. Stephen Covey brilliantly said “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”

So if someone asked you the question ‘What are your top 3 priorities for your business/career and your life and what strategies do you have in place to support that?’ would you be able to answer it without thinking too much?

All too often people are prioritising:

  • Having to know what is happening on social media,
  • responding to emails,
  • turning the lights off last in the office,
  • allowing themselves to be distracted rather than being present
  • doing menial tasks rather than ‘the hard stuff’
  • how situations effect them rather than taking into account how it effects others
  • responding how they feel rather than how they should
  • being in the business rather than on
  • saying ‘yes’ rather than no
  • using lazy language (busy) rather than engaging in conversation

The list could go on but it will give you an idea of where priorities are. On average, it is reported that adults are spending over 2 hours a day on social media. Time well spent? When I mentor leaders understanding what their priorities are and the fact they are not aligned to them is one of their biggest light bulb moments. Often, they are allowing themselves to be distracted rather than doing what they need and want to be doing both professionally and personally.

This disconnection from our most purposeful and meaningful priorities is contributing to a lack of disengagement at work, the feeling of being unfulfilled and our mental health. Especially when we are sacrificing our personal priorities and compromising these for professional reasons, often unconsciously. This can lead to people feeling very unhappy and frustrated but the positive is we can turn this around by realigning our focus.

We all have the same amount of time in a day – 24 hours, 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds, it’s what we choose to do with it that makes the biggest difference. Smart leaders understand that they need to identify trade-offs, choosing what not to do as much as what to do. We can’t do everything so it’s a matter of ensuring we are doing our important work and then focusing on the everyday tasks, which we will always have to do but this can’t be absorbing 100% of our time.

Take some time out to get clear on the following:

  1. What are your top 3 priorities professionally – business/career?
  2. What are you top 3 priorities for you personally?
  3. What are your top 3 priorities for your leadership?


Keep the list short, 3 – 5 priorities should be your maximum otherwise you come up with a wish list. Figure out what is really important to you. Then identify the strategies you need to adopt to ensure you are doing these and make these actions your day-to-day priorities. Check in and assess where you need to pivot, what needs to change, what can you manipulate and what can you stop doing to ensure you a living true to what’s really important to you.

Be prepared, this exercise could be confronting if you uncover you have been compromising what and who is really important to you through being busy. But the gift in this is understanding where you’re at and realigning priorities. You can’t change the past but you can very much influence the future, starting now.