Thursday, March 29, 2012

Savvy Entrepreneur: Keeping Your Priorities Straight

I had a meeting with a client recently who was feeling so bogged down with all that she felt she needed to do that she was paralyzed to do anything. I can so relate to that feeling. I get it often. My reaction to overwhelm is to shut down, curl up in a ball, and stare at the ceiling, seriously.

Luckily I’ve found a strategy that works wonders for helping me put it all into perspective and get moving again. It’s a simple process that really clears out the clutter in your head and shines a light on where to focus your energy.

First I do a serious brain dump. I write down everything I think I need to do that’s floating around in my head, no matter how urgent it is. The act of writing it down helps to clear out of my brain. I’ve written it down so I no longer need to spend energy trying to remember it.

Then I go through my list and prioritize everything high, medium or low.

Anything high priority is do or die for myself and/or my business, the things that will shut me down if they don’t get done. It’s often things like paying bills, following up with big projects or getting deliverables to clients. You must be honest with yourself, it’s very tempting to make things higher priority than they really deserve. If the business will keep running if that task doesn’t get done, then it’s not a high priority.

Medium priority means the task falls into best practice, something that makes the business better or run smoother, but isn't crucial to its existence. Things like keeping your Facebook page updated, getting photos from your last event on your website, or researching new packaging are definitely medium priorities.

Low priority items are the ones that only you will notice if they get done or not, changing the headline font on your website, reorganizing your workspace, or reading all those blog posts you've been bookmarking.

I make special note of recurring tasks like posting on the blog, sharing these posts on social media, and monthly accounting. These recurring tasks need to get on your calendar. Mark a specific chunk of time every week or month for each of these tasks and schedule it for the rest of the year.

Now that you've got everything prioritized, it’s only the high priority tasks that get your attention when you feel overwhelmed. The medium priority tasks get tackled when you have a little extra time. Yes, that does actually happen.

You also need to get comfortable with the fact that those low priority tasks may never get done. Some may get tackled when you literally find yourself twiddling your thumbs. Others may suddenly get moved up in priority, but many will languish at the bottom of your list for months.

Honestly it's only realistic to think you can accomplish three tasks a day. I know that sounds like a small number, but think about how your days go, unexpected phone calls, urgent emails, you forgot you made a lunch date with an old friend... Things happen that derail you, it's a part of life.

I want you to begin to really follow those priorities, if it's not high, think life or death, you'll be ok if it doesn't get done exactly when you want it to. You will, I promise.

What do you do to keep yourself on track? Do you have a similar system that helps keep you sane when things get really busy?

Genevieve not only writes The Savvy Entrepreneur she is the Co-Founder of Lightbox SF where she empowers creatives to take over the world. Check out the blog or how to work with her.

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Katy or Steph about joining SFEtsy!

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