One of my absolute favorite books is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less because it is filled with terrifying truths about how much we let other people dictate our time and energy. The author writes that “when we surrender our ability to choose [our priorities], something or someone else will step in to choose for us. […] We can either make the hard choices for ourselves or allow others—whether our colleagues, our boss, or our customers—to decide for us.”
Of course work will choose our priorities if we let it, of course other peoples’ requests will choose our priorities if we let them, of course personal life responsibilities will choose our priorities if we let them.
So the challenge is to start being intentional about what we say yes to and what we prioritize.
HELL YEAH or No
One of my favorite topics in the book is the idea of “No “yes.” Either “HELL YEAH!” or “no.”” by Derek Sivers. “The key is to put the decision to an extreme test: if we feel total and utter conviction to do something, then we say yes, Derek-style. Anything less gets a thumbs down.” What would things look like for you if you only said yes to HELL YEAH things? The book argues that instead of asking “what do you have to give up?” it allows you to ask “what do I want to go big on?”
I was sharing this book with a client and after she identified that she wants to feel more intentional with her time, I challenged her to make a list of things she’s choosing to de-prioritize. As often happens, as I made the suggestion to the client, I thought, I want to make a list for myself and really take a look at what I’m prioritizing.
Identifying what you want to go big on
Here’s the very simple activity I did in case you want to follow along (and feel free to use the framework I put together here!):
I identified all the activities I’ve done in the past few months and made a big list from both work and personal life - chorus rehearsals, in-person coffees with other business owners, volunteering, hosting events, running workshops, taking part in different business owner communities, etc.
Then I made two columns - “Prioritizing (Going Big On)” and “De-Prioritizing”.
Then I placed all the activities in the column that felt right - I want to go big on my women’s barbershop chorus this year because I’ve been invited to sing with a quartet that will compete next year, I want to go big on two areas of my business (referral partners and consistent writing and sharing my ideas), I want to de-prioritize hosting events and workshops, I want to de-prioritize one of my volunteering commitments, I want to de-prioritize in-person chats while my schedule is a bit busier over the next few months.
And I made an “I don’t know yet” space for activities that I’m not quite sure if I’m choosing to go big on them. I’ll revisit this list and see if I get a clearer answer after the holidays.
Revisit and re-evaluate as needed
It’s interesting that making this list has already prompted a feeling of relief for me. It’s not that I can never prioritize workshops ever again, but actually it does make sense for me to de-prioritize them right at this moment. It’s important to remember that we can always revisit and re-evaluate any decisions we make about how we spend our time and energy.
I also imagine that going forward it will give me a lot more clarity and confidence in my answers to requests and opportunities that come my way. Knowing what my main priorities are for the next few months, I’ll be able to asses whether the requests I receive fit into those priorities and deliver a clear yes or a clear no.
What are you choosing to go big on after the holidays and what can you actively choose to de-prioritize at the moment?