Lindsay’s In Business: PART 12: Prioritisation – Pah!

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by: Lindsay Uittenbogaard

What happens when you realise your path is entrepreneurship rather than employment? Lindsay takes up the challenge and shares an account of her journey as it unfolds…

Last week, if you had shown me the top 10 tips for how to make the best use of your time, I would have told you I was already doing them. Setting goals, writing lists, bundling work into tasks, starting with the most difficult thing first… piece of cake.

When I was younger, if I told my mum I didn’t have time to do something, she’d say, “Well make time!” So, I did. At one point, a few years ago, I had 2 young kids, I worked full time, acted in a play, and wrote a full film script among other things – like working full time. When I saw people wondering how I did it, I would share the secret: hard work pays off.

I think part of that is about just having a kind of burning energy to do make things happen. In fact, it can be uncomfortable sometimes, like I hardly seem to be able to satisfy it. Maybe what’s behind that is the belief that people need to make the most of their time, that success is made up of lots of little successes every day – and a huge part of that is about simply getting on with it, bit by bit.

But it’s also like a kind of addiction. You feel great when you’re on top of everything, as if you are winning a race against time. And you are ITCHING to get going when deadlines are looming, or actions are undone. I would get organised, put everything else aside. Ask questions and write out plans to make sense of it; break each task into chunks and get stuff done.

And at what cost? Familiar feedback I’d received in the past was about being too task focused, not stopping to understand what’s going on around me, not really appreciating and building relationships, not being strategic enough. Not prioritising.

This annoyed me greatly. My subconscious argued with that – not prioritising – pah! Don’t these people see that talk is meaningless without action – and the more, the better? We only live once – don’t these people feel the urgency? Don’t these people see that I’m accomplishing at least what 2 people would normally be doing? They should be giving me credit! This driving force is what got me where I am today! And of course, I was right – to a point.

So there I was with my lists, my ideas, my multi-tasking, my productivity. So I was sitting at my desk with a ton of stuff to do, and realised I actually felt a kind of panic when the list felt too ling. (The good thing about being older and wiser as you’ll probably know, is having greater self-awareness: you can more easily separate what you’re feeling inside from what’s happening outside.) Practically speaking, things were on course. Why the panic? I observed it for a while (which can be tricky when you’re panicking).

Was it the uncertainty of trying to get a business off the ground? Nope, I don’t think so.

Was it being tired? No, I definitely don’t get this way when I’m tired.

My very good friend Anne-Marie is a wise, kind person. We often go for long walks. Today was a bright, fresh, cold winter’s day. I described the situation.

“So how do you want to feel?” she asked. She’s done some NLP. She’s so cool. Aren’t I lucky to know her: )

“Well, calm. In control.”

“Did you try writing out what you only need to do for the time being and leaving the rest until later?”

“Yes but…” I replied, arguing, over-complicating it. “… sometimes it’s important to take steps now so that you are better set up in the future.” I still couldn’t see it.

“When you do as much as you possibly can, what effect does that have on your work and life?”

“It’s a squash. But there’s a lot to do, so I just have to do it. Otherwise I’d have to let things go.” This was still a challenging concept.

“Yes,” she giggled, “You would! At least for now. Write a list of what you have to do this month. The rest can go on hold. If you can get around to those, then fine. If not, you can see where you are later.”

Now, a big penny dropped. I realised that I wasn’t prioritising – or at least prioritising effectively. I was prioritising as much as possible. It had become more important to do stuff then the was the stuff I was actually doing. It wasn’t about control – for me, it was about being complete – that’s something else. It was like being a bit OCD tidy.

I felt silly – even with her.

25 years of experience and I needed to hear that?

“You’ll work out the later stuff when you get there, but you’re not there now,” she said.

OK – I get it. I’d have to drop tidy and complete, and start working with time, instead of against it.

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