Last week, I mentioned that while we can’t control others, we can and must control ourselves. We have to understand our strengths, weakness, and desires, then we need to use those to figure out what to do. As we discussed several weeks ago, not everything is equal. Some things have to come ahead of others and some things have to be let go – either to be done by someone else or not be done at all. In other words, we have to prioritize.
We have to prioritize our energy and our time or we run a high risk of running out of both and not getting to where we want to go. Want to know what your priorities are? Look at where you are spending your time. Actions don’t lie. Your calendar and activity log show your priorities. Do they line up with where you want to be? The wolf that grows is the one that you feed. Or if you want a vegetarian analogy, the grass is greener where you water it.
Time is a limited resource. That means that it is finite; there is not an unlimited amount of time. We must be intentional about our use of it. There is an opportunity cost with how we spend our time. An opportunity cost is the potential benefit we lost because we chose an alternative. If I only have $10 in my pocket, and I buy a latte, I cannot also buy a burger. By getting one, I cannot get the other. I don’t have the resources for both. When I wrote this blog post, I used up time. Time that I can’t get back and use to review a contract or have a meeting with a client. I don’t have unlimited time and so I lost the money I could have invoiced for contract review because I wrote this blog instead.
Or to put it another way, for every “yes,” there are corresponding hundreds of “no’s.” Every time I say yes, I am concurrently silently saying no to lots of other things that I currently know about and even those that I don’t. Even if it is implicit yes by doing an action, I am by definition not able to use that time to do anything else. I can’t rewind and write a contract instead of this blog post. If I ask my paralegal to file a trademark, I can’t also have them prepare a report. Which is more important? That is a decision that must be made. Time is made up of “or” not “and.”
Awww nuts, that means that I am in charge of my own destiny, doesn’t it? I mean I can complain and blame others for my calendar and busyness, but that’s what it is – blame. I own my calendar and my priorities. Realizing that means I have to make really difficult decisions. I love helping my community, including serving on Boards of Directors, but I found out the hard way that being a Chair on those boards takes up a lot of time and energy. I had to examine whether or not that time and effort was fitting my priorities. My calendar said it was clearly a priority – look at all those meetings and correspondences, but my oh, everything else (including my stress levels about other stuff that wasn’t getting done) was telling me it wasn’t and shouldn’t be a priority. So I have to politely decline lots of opportunities to do good because I have even more opportunities to do even more good that fit my priorities. It hurts every time, but only for a bit. I have to withstand that short, acute pain of no rather than the long, slow burn of saying yes to something to which I should have said no.
“What are my priorities? Does this fit? What are the opportunity costs of this yes?” That’s what cycling in my head when someone asks me to do something and why I pause before answering. Now you know why it takes a moment for my answer, and why I never expect an immediate answer from you either.
Thanks always for prioritizing reading our blog! – Erin