I’ve wanted to post this for some time now. Here’s an exercise I give to all my students, to my friends, and also to executives during my talks. The results have always been positive, and usually life-improving. Commit one hour to doing this thought exercise every 6 months to help you refocus your priorities.
STEP 1: Take ten minutes to write down all of the different categories of tasks you have in a week.
STEP 2: Take ten minutes to write down every single responsibility, task and choice you face in an average week at work. The more comprehensive your list is, the better.
STEP 3: Now, what can you easily cut? Which of the things on your list are redundant or simply not very important? Cut at least 50% of your list. 75% would be even better!
STEP 4: For each remaining item, first imagine the difficulties and frustrations of taking it on. Then imagine the potential pay-off. Concretize for yourself the consequences of dropping the task vs. completing the task. Now cut the items that are more frustrating than rewarding. Keep going until you have no more than 10 to 15 things left.
STEP 5: Consider what categories the remaining tasks and choices fall into. Try to divide them up into categories.
STEP 6: How much value do you bring to each category of task or choice? What can you do – or what do you want to do – that no one else will be able to do as well as you? Where should you try to condition yourself, improving your ability to choose, and where should you settle for good enough or delegate? Go through one more round of cutting until you reach your 3-5 top priorities.