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The 3 Most Important Questions when Prioritizing Your Day.

Josh Clark, CEO Richer Life

April 3, 2015

For most of my life, I wore my busyness with pride. Believing that “out of this world” results would justify an “out of control” pace. In my early twenties, I juggled a start-up business, my education, and a thriving ministry.

Throughout that decade, my work hard – play hard lifestyle produced some great results. But it came at great expense. Before my thirtieth birthday, stress at work and home landed me in the ER with chest pains. It was a wake-up call I’ll never forget. A lesson I don’t want to repeat.

“My pursuit of everything almost left me with nothing.”

I was unhealthy in each of my five life domains: personal, family, vocational, faith, and community. I had robbed myself (and everyone who depended on me) of the margin necessary to live life to the fullest. I needed to make a series of changes in my life; changes that would take me from an overcrowded life to an integrated life. I needed to learn to prioritize my life in a way that would keep me healthy and engaged for the long haul.

Now, at almost forty, I am responsible and accountable for more than I could have ever imagined at thirty. My life is full, and I love it. But when it gets too busy (which it still does) I recognize that I need to reassess my priorities and then redistribute them amongst my team. I’ll write later about delegation and living at your personal highest and best. But this post is about priorities. Having a process for ordering your day is a necessity. John Maxwell recommends using these three questions when ordering your day. I think you’ll find them helpful. I know I have.

“The Three Most Important Questions when Prioritizing Your Day.”

1. What is required of me?  You can’t effectively prioritize your day without answering this question. Another way of asking it is “What must I do today?” In your personal life, what must you do today? In your family, what is required of you to be a good parent and spouse? If you’re an employee, what must you do to satisfy your boss? If you are a leader, ask, “What must I do that I can’t delegate to someone on my team?” When prioritizing, you have to start with this question. Don’t move on to the next question, in fact, don’t even read it, until you have determined what is required of you today.

2. What gives me the greatest return? The more momentum you experience in your life and career, the more you will find that certain activities yield much higher results than others. Personally, I quickly discovered that areas requiring my communication and strategic leadership abilities gave me the highest return for my efforts. Accordingly, I set aside time to develop these abilities. I said yes to opportunities that developed these abilities and worked to delegate or decline ones that did not. People who want to grow their impact and income focus on developing their high-yield areas. When prioritizing your day, make sure you give time to activities that give you a high return on your time.

3. What gives me the greatest reward?  Someone who does what is required of them and what gives them a good return will be highly productive, but they may not be happy. Prioritizing according to questions 1 and 2, at the expense of question 3 can be dangerous. You should pursue a life’s work from which you derive great personal satisfaction. However, if you start with the reward question, I don’t think you ever get to answer it. To be truly successful, you must learn discipline in the first two areas before addressing the third. I love helping high-impact leaders find a better rhythm and build a bigger life. But I wouldn’t have the opportunities I enjoy today if I hadn’t spent nearly two decades primarily focused around the first two questions.

To be a high-impact leader, you have to be intentional about when you say yes and even more intentional about when you say no. Setting daily priorities and living them out is a discipline all high-impact leaders have learned. At times, I still overpromise and underdeliver. And I can still try to crowd too much into any one day. But I hope you’ll try answering these three questions for each of your five life domains. Not only have they helped me make the most of my time, but they’ve also helped me avoid any more trips to the ER.

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