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You are your priorities: How to say “no” and better manage your professional life


I came across one of those “40 quotes that…” posts last week on Forbes.

As usual, one quote stuck with me: “You are your priorities.”

Can’t remember who said it, but I like it because it hits on something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

How we manage our lives.


My priority list is pretty easy: 1) Family, 2) Business, 3) Volunteering, 4) Fun

That’s the filter. And, it helps me manage my schedule and life.

A few examples. In a prior life, I used to be a golfer. I played high school and college golf. I played 50-60 rounds a year. I was addicted. Then, a girl came along. Kids (relatively) soon after. Those took priority. Nowadays, I play very little golf. And, I get a lot of grief for it from friends and family (rightfully so). But, I’m not quitting golf permanently. It just doesn’t fit into the priority list right now. In fact, it’s toward the bottom of the list (“Fun”).

Once in a while, a friend will ask me to a Twins game or an event on a weeknight. Weeknights are tough, as I’ve committed to being away from home no more than 2 nights a week max (preferably one–see priority #1 above). One night a week is usually eaten up by MIMA–with a board meeting, a committee meeting, or an event. So, that leaves little wiggle room for other weeknight outings. Which means I’ve been saying “thanks, but I can’t do it this week” a lot the last couple years.

You are your priorities.

It’s a good filter for your decision tree.

Here’s another example. I was recently asked to speak at an out-of-town conference. It’s an event I’ve spoken at before, but it’s a multi-day event and chances are, it won’t lead to any business. So, if I put it through my priority filter, here’s what it looks like:

* The speaking gig takes me away from my family (#1 on the priority list) for 2-3 days. Not great.

* The speaking gig will most likely not result in new business or any meaningful leads (#2 on the priority list). Not great.

* However, the speaking gig would be fun (#4 on the priority list). And, it would allow me to develop content I could use on my blog and other social media sites (#2). Not bad, but not a compelling enough reason to do it.

I turned it down. I put it through the filter, and the pros (#4) just didn’t outweigh the cons (#2).

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

You are your priorities.




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