This blog post has been adapted from Dr. John Maxwell’s personal productivity resource, Today Matters. John Maxwell has been one of the world’s foremost leadership and personal growth experts for more than 40 years, and this guidebook for success planning contains invaluable insights. You can pick up a copy here.
In 1971 I began working on a business degree. While reading for one of the courses, I came across a paragraph written about Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. It contained information about prioritizing called the Pareto Principle. It said that by focusing your attention on the top 20 percent of all your priorities, you would get an 80 percent return on your effort. That was my eureka moment! That’s when I made this decision: I will prioritize my life and give focus and energy to those things that give the highest return.
Ask Yourself 3 Questions
Poet Carl Sandburg said, “Time is the most valuable coin in your life. You and you alone will determine how that coin will be spent. Be careful that you do not let other people spend it for you.”
Your greatest possession is the twenty-four hours you have directly ahead of you. How will you spend it? Will you give in to pressure or focus on priorities? Will you allow pointless e-mails, unimportant tasks, telemarketers, interruptions, and other distractions to consume your day? Or will you take complete responsibility for how you spend your time, take control of the things you can, and make today yours? If you don’t decide how your day will be spent, someone else, or something else, will.
No Daily Dozen issue has added more to my success than the principle of priorities. When I discovered that I needed to change my approach to my day and my career, I started by asking myself three critical questions:
1. WHAT IS REQUIRED OF ME?
Any realistic assessment of priorities in any area of life must start with a realistic assessment of what a person must do. For you to be a good spouse or parent, what is required of you? To satisfy your employer, what must you do? (If you lead others, then the question should be, What must you personally do that cannot be delegated to anyone else?) When ordering priorities, always start with the requirement question and give it careful thought before moving on to the next question.
2. WHAT GIVES ME THE GREATEST RETURN?
As you progress in your career, you begin to discover that some activities yield a much higher return for the effort than others do. (Anyone who hasn’t discovered that probably isn’t progressing in his career!) The next place to focus your attention is on those high-return activities.
3. WHAT GIVES ME THE GREATEST REWARD?
If you do only what you must and what is effective, you will be highly productive, but you may not be content. I think it’s also important to consider what gives you personal satisfaction. However, I find that some people want to start with the reward question and go no further than that. No one can be successful who doesn’t possess the discipline to take care of the first two areas before adding the third.
Note: These questions are meant to be asked in order. Many of us would love to skip down to #3 and focus on the most exciting activities. But no one can be successful who doesn’t possess the discipline to take care of the first two areas before adding the third.
The time that you have on this earth is precious – every minute of it. As Ralph Waldo Emerson advised, “Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”
Is there a better use of your time than a commitment to GROWTH?
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