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Focus on your Priorities

In work or in our personal lives, there is an ever growing level of distraction – our mobile phone and consumer electronics society hardly helps.

Perhaps we have to accept that we are now reaping what we have sown but, even so, you have to question whether it has made our life experience considerably richer.

Notwithstanding the difficult economic conditions, we still feel the need to be kept busy, on the go and very few of us are able to down tools and take a few days off doing nothing.

Looking at how things have changed at work, how many times do you hear people complain about the amount of noise – emails, telephone calls, interruptions by others – that they have to deal with? It is incessant, and I am quite sure that it has removed some of the allure of practising law.

And then there are clients – they just make the whole thing so stressful, particularly the ones who are never satisfied and are always looking to pick a fight.

If we want to get some of ourselves back – you know to feel like we own our soul – we have to get smarter at working out the difference between what is urgent, important, best left to someone else or something we can ignore. [Very 7 Habits I know]

We need to work within ourselves to understand the best time of day to get things done, and not be driven by the clock, the telephone or someone leaning over our shoulder waiting for an answer to that ‘simple’ question that usually has huge ramifications if you get it wrong.

Have you ever wondered why some days you are more productive than others? Do you build you day around that period to complete a piece of work that has been festering on the side? Or how often do you turn the computer and your mobile off and find a room just to think? No the temptation is to just keep doing it, doing it, doing it. It must feel for some that they haven’t even got time to go to the toilet!

[There is a wider point, perhaps for another post, as to why so many lawyers are driven to bill, bill, bill without any regard to their health, sanity and general well being.]

If you really want to make the most of your time – personally and professionally – then you have to focus on your priorities. Now I know that might be difficult with so much swirling round your head, but to begin with you need to work out what is important to you.

Is it staying fit and healthy?

Or spending quality time with your loved ones?

Or just having more time for yourself to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

Whatever it is don’t be afraid to write it down somewhere. This is not a goal setting exercise but rather an exercise in self-discipline and to give you an anchor for your busy life. You have to be able to say that if it doesn’t fulfil your priorities then it is toast.

Once you have worked out the priorities you then have to go work on creating a life (at work or otherwise) that supports them. If you genuinely mean to spend more time with your family, then you don’t need to feel embarrassed about leaving work on time. [Yes, I still remember those disapproving looks when I did leave work early or was it because I so rarely did it].

Your work is not your life.

If you find that you are making more and more excuses for avoiding doing what you have set your heart on, then you need to be able to step away from things and take time to reflect. That may be as simple as a quick walk for 30 minutes or it may mean you taking a couple of days off.

Have you ever wondered why some people get so much more done those others? In my experience, it is because they have a life plan and anything that doesn’t underpin that just doesn’t get the attention that less mortals might think is necessary. Sometimes these people come across as slightly rude or off hand but it is nothing personal. It is just that they know where they are headed and intend to get there.

So what can you take away from this post?

  1. Have a life plan. Don’t build your life around your work.
  2. Write down your priorities. Review them periodically but make sure they really are want you want out of life.
  3. Build a fortress. You need something that protects you from all those distractions.
  4. Have an escape valve. If you need to blow off steam make sure you can access it. For me it is cycling.
  5. Go to work on fulfilling your priorities.
  6. Question your modus operandi at home and at work. Don’t get sucked into doing it all the time. As I learnt to my cost, just because I billed like a demon didn’t count for nearly as much as I thought it would.
  7. Stay close to nature.
  8. Spend time, as much time as you can, with those that you love and cherish.
  9. Do nothing. Sometimes the best antidote to life’s stresses and strains is to do nothing. If you can meditate, even for 5 minutes, then you may be surprised with how rich you feel afterwards.
  10. Fall in love with life. Stop grumbling, and appreciate what you have, rather than what you don’t have.

If you had a crystal ball and someone asked you to predict how your life would look in 10 years, do you have any idea? Oh sure we all want to be happy, enriched, spending quality time with our family but that isn’t going to pop out of the ether. You need to go work on fulfilling your priorities. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are still not sure but don’t leave it until it is too late. Make a commitment to write out today your top 3 priorities and work out how you are going to fulfil those.

~ Julian Summerhayes ~