Brought To You By Emily Parks
Productivity Consultant at Organize For Success, LLC...
Helping You Make Every Minute Matter!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Get Clear For The New Year Week #1: Priorities, Goals, Objectives and Saying No To What Doesn't Fit

Today, successful small businesses must make changes quickly when needed. Technology is evolving rapidly, dramatically altering the way in which businesses find, interact with and meet the needs of clients. The number of employees continues to be cut while resources become more limited, continually asking small businesses to do more with less. We're often reminded how important collaboration, communication and scheduling are when looking at our own successes as well as our teams' successes.

Chances are good that your expectations for the new year are even higher than what you had in mind and have accomplished in the year that’s ending. If so, take action now to make changes for improving your business moving forward. In my “Get Clear For The New Year” series, I’ll post each week of this month about steps you can take now to make the new year your best thus far, empowering you with the optimal tools to drive your desired workflow results.

Let's start by discussing the foundation for your upcoming success: your priorities, goals and objectives. Each of us has 1,440 minutes in each day or 10,080 minutes in each week, which means we have only 525,600 minutes in all of 2015 to achieve everything we desire. Time is a limited resource, and we cannot add to that allocation. Instead, we can only manage our actions within that allocated time to do all we possibly can. With such a limited allocation of time, it is extremely important to be focused on how we want to use it.

As Stephen Covey encourages, think of each week in your year as if it were a jar. In front of you, you’ve been given a pile of rocks, a pile of pebbles and a pile of sand. Those rocks represent actions to support the most important commitments in your life, whether your career, your health, your loved ones, your education, volunteering for a cause that’s important to you or something of equal priority to you; there are serious consequences if these tasks are left undone. The sand represents actions that are neither important nor urgent but can be good releases throughout your day, week or month, like watching funny videos on YouTube, playing video games and catching up on personal social media. Then, the pebbles represent what actions fall in between the importance levels of your rocks and sand; often, what are currently considered pebbles would become rocks if they are postponed for too long, but you currently have a little wiggle room on them. The pebbles represent tasks with slight but manageable consequences if left undone. Each week in your year can hold only so many of your rocks, pebbles and sand; be strategic and proactive about which items you choose to give your limited time. As indicated in the video at, if we each allocate time for what’s most important first, we’re more likely to have more time to accomplish much more of the rock, pebble and sand items that we desire.

In these last few weeks of 2014, it’s important to clarify your rocks, pebbles and sand, creating the habit of scheduling each week with time allocated for rocks before pebbles before sand. To determine your business’ rocks, it is imperative to be clear about what are your company’s priorities and goals. Jumpstart this analysis and move towards clarity on your priorities with these strategic-planning questions:

1. What is the one thing your organization did best this year, and what is needed to repeat that success?

2. What is the one thing your organization most needs to improve, and what must happen to fix it?

3. Which groups or individuals have prevented your organization from reaching its greatest possible success, and what can be done to remove that hurdle?

4. Which groups or individuals were most responsible for your organization’s successes this year, and how can those folks be shown appreciation while encouraging that success to be repeated in the new year?

5. What performance metric has been falling below expectations, and what can be done to correct that?

6. What performance metric most closely reflects whether your organization is operating successfully?

7. Which products or services offered by your organization are most profitable? Least profitable? How can business operations be more aware of the profitability aspect for what products and services are offered?

8. What resources can help team members better achieve the organization’s goals, like networking, administrative support, technological tools or more streamlined processes?

9. About what results are you most passionate, excited and motivated? How can you focus more intently on that specific facet of your organization?

10. What areas of your business can be outsourced or automated to achieve better results in other areas?

From your answers to these questions, you can deduce which areas of your business rank as your highest priorities headed into the new year. Create a goal for each of the determined priorities; then, make sure that each goal is supported by SMART objectives, meaning they are Specific (targeting an exact area that is to be improved), Measurable (able to quantify progress), Assignable (have specified who will complete), Realistic (associated with results that can realistically be achieved with available resources) and Time-related (to be achieved by a specified deadline). 

Heading into a new year means a blank slate, and focusing your actions on your personal and professional priorities can lead to outstanding outcomes; however, it can also mean changes to your existing behaviors or habits, which is challenging. As opportunities come your way that are not aligned with your priorities, it will be important that you are armed with ways to say “no”… Here are a few examples:

- Let go of the kind of work you do not want to be spending your time on by saying “Unfortunately, I simply don’t have time for that right now”, which opens space for doing the work that really deserves your time.

- If someone approaches you with an idea, venture or suggestion in which you are interested but you just don’t have the bandwidth to consider it at this particularly busy time, say that this is a busy time for you, and ask that they contact you again after whatever date you specify as being a less busy time; this approach avoids your overwhelm by putting the ask back on the asker’s to-do list.

- Although you never owe the other person more explanation than you feel comfortable giving, if you choose to elaborate a bit more, you can always say “I’d love to, but I’ve got other commitments right now”, and feel free to explain to whatever degree you prefer what those other commitments might be.

- You can always choose the more direct approach, saying “It’s a no, I’m afraid, but thanks for asking me."

- Whenever you are overwhelmed by your current commitments and turning down a new alternative, I find it very successful to be upfront and clear about your state of overwhelm; examples of this approach include “I’ve got too much on my plate right now” or “Bandwidth is low so I won’t be able to make it work."

Whenever you are offering a “no" response, it should always be truthful, firm and not overly apologetic or explanatory; once you’ve made the decision to say “no”, try to not overthink it and always take action.

ASSIGNMENT: Visit to see a video related to this blog post; then, this week, take time to answer the aforementioned strategic-planning questions, deducing what your priorities might be. Practice scheduling your week to focus more intently on your priorities, and brainstorm goals as well as SMART objectives associated with those priorities. Make time in your schedule for what matters most.

What are your priorities, goals and objectives? How do you make time for what’s most important? How do you move away from opportunities that do not fit your priorities?

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