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LEARN TO BE DRIVEN BY WHAT IS IMPORTANT – NOT TO MANAGE TIME.
It is popular in time management articles and books to help you more effectively utilize your time by learning how to prioritize what you need to do. If you are a small business owner you probably have a never ending list of things that need your attention. It is not unusual to hear people say:

“There is too much to do, and I don’t know which to prioritize”
“I’m always stressed because I procrastinate, but I procrastinate because I am always stressed out”
“I want to enjoy life and my family more. I need more time because I never have time for myself”

DO YOU SET MEANINGFUL PRIORITIES FOR YOURSELF
Stop for a moment and review what you are doing. What is important is a matter of what you do and why you do it rather than how much pressure you are feeling to get it done. Too often we get busy taking care of those things that are pressuring us. It is these “external pressures” that interfere with use from taking the time to stop and ask ourselves if what we are doing really matters to us.

ARE YOU LEADING YOUR LIFE OR MANAGING IT?
Management works within your existing frame of reference and paradigm. Managing is externally driven. It means dealing in an effective way with what is “thrown at you” by the environment you are in. When you manage you are inevitably managing things, and sometimes relate to the people around you as things.

Leadership is internally driven. When you engage your personal or business leadership qualities, you are often modeling and leading people. As an internally driven leader you should first be asking yourself the question “am I doing the right things” before you ask “am I doing things right?”

DO YOU WORRY ABOUT THE URGENT OR PRIORITIZE THE IMPORTANT?
Steven Covey in his book “First Things First” makes important distinctions in the type of work we do and how we spend out time. He identifies areas that are combinations of urgent and important, or not urgent and not important.
While most time management list prioritizing helps people deal with the urgent, it too often neglects the important. And while urgent issues can sometimes be important as well, they often get taken care of because they are urgent even if they are not important. In such a case, your actions are becoming driven more by external factors, which are not important to you, rather than internal meaningful purposeful ones.

Covey uses an interesting name he calls the “urgency addiction”. This is the sales manager who satisfies an irate customer, the shipping manager who must get out an overwhelmingly huge number of orders in time for Christmas, or the IT manager who gets the computer system up and running after it broke down. You may remember, feeling the “rush” of solving the urgent problem. While that is necessary, it should not take the place of following through on you pre-determined list of important goals.

DO YOU SET ASIDE TIME EACH WEEK TO REFLECT?
The first step to working in more on important issues is to identify what is important to you. For some people that can be developing a mission statement, while for others it can be identifying a clear, concrete vision of where you are headed. It means asking yourself, “what is most important?”, “what do I want to be and to do with my life and business?”

You must set aside time each week to be asking yourself these questions. Take the time to reflect, and don’t say you are too busy. Without reflection you are on a path without direction. Imagine you are an airline pilot. Would you take off without a pre-determined flight plan and direction?

SUCCESS IS IN THE DETAIL AND EXECUTION
After you have reflected and re-affirmed your values, you need to decide on the steps to take during the week that will help move you in the direction of that long term goal. You must make sure that what you are scheduling is aligned with your purpose and mission.

Once you have identified what is important for you, it becomes crucial to list daily, weekly, and/or monthly goals that will help you slowly accomplish that which is important. You have to find your own comfortable way to make it happen, but do it. Remember that to accomplish your truly meaningful and important goals you must add them to your weekly to do list. Be driven by internal motivation and not only by what is urgently thrown at you..

SUCCESS IS THE RESULT OF DEDICATION AND HARD WORK
Be realistic. The famous saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, means that significant achievement takes commitment, sweat and hard work. You can’t become successful small business owner overnight.

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