Recently, I blogged about how the American work force is feeling burned out and stressed like never before in history. The ability to “stay connected” to work while at home or on vacation has increased the risk of living a life out of balance and constantly under pressure to respond to others wants and needs. I am no stranger to an unbalanced life. Early in my career, I struggled to balance a desire to grow a successful business, be a supportive husband, and be an engaged father to my young children. One day I realized that I needed to make changes. I was forgetting important events, missing special moments with my children, and always saying, “Yes, not a problem”, to every client request. I was feeling burned out, pulled in a hundred different directions, and to be honest, ready to quit.

Thankfully, I had a great business coach from Building Champions that helped me design a simple but meaningful priority management plan to help me bring order to my life and work. Our goal was simple, to help me achieve a high level of success while remaining intentional and purposeful in my health, relationships, and daily life.

My coach took me through a series of exercises (Life PlanningVision Planning, and Business Planning) to help me develop a priority management plan that would become one of the greatest tools in my business and personal life. Perhaps you have a similar goal and need to shift from a crazy schedule to a high-payoff one? If so, I want to encourage you to consider building a priority management plan using the following process:

  1. Track how you spend your time. Spend 3-5 days recording everything you do in 15 minute increments. Sounds terrible, and to be honest it is. Stick with it though.
  2. Identify your high and low payoff activities. From your list assess each of your activities and identify them as either HIGH PAYOFF or LOW PAYOFF. You should have anywhere from 3-7 high payoff activities depending on your role with your company.
  3. Create your perfect week. Take a blank weekly calendar and write out your perfect schedule for a week. You should block out time for the highest priority items in your life and business. For example, dates nights with your spouse, going to your child’s soccer game, working out, personal development, strategic thinking, and the daily disciplines that help you grow your business. Don’t forget to block time out for you to review your schedule and plan for the week ahead.
  4. Delegate the low payoff activities. Assemble the activities that did not make it into your perfect week and that you consider low-payoff activities and delegate them to someone else. This person might be a personal assistant, a virtual assistant, or an intern.
  5. Communicate your schedule. It is extremely important that you let your clients, team, and family know about your new schedule and priority management plan. People will respect your time if they see you value it. Post your schedule, the hours you are available, and when you are completely unavailable.
  6. Practice delivering solution based “No.” responses. My high payoff activities become non-negotiable appointments on my calendar. If someone wants to meet during the time I have a high payoff activity scheduled, I tell them “No. I can’t meet with you then, but I can at ________ or at ________, which of these two times works best for you?” This is a solution based “No.” response and people prefer it to a simple “No. I can’t.” or “No. I’m busy then.” If an emergency does come up and you have to skip an appointment, then make sure you reschedule time for that high payoff activity right away.
  7. Review your plan. Your new plan should be reviewed daily for the first 30 days. After that a weekly review is ideal. Shift activities to different time slots if needed during this review. Assess your energy level at certain times of the day and what level is required for you to deliver maximum results. Make adjustments and re-engage the next week.

As you go through this process you will experience the frustration of not achieving your perfect week and slipping back into doing low-payoff activities. This is normal and something you will improve at each week. Start by trying to win 4 out of the 7 days in a week, 3 out of 4 weeks in a month, and 10 out of 12 months in a year.

A well-executed priority management plan can help you avoid burnout and be a catalyst for your personal and professional success. If you need help developing your plan, please feel free to contact me. I’m happy to walk you through this process more in-depth.

Make it a great day!

Coach Dan