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The Power of Prioritizing

The number of minutes and hours in every day have never been the issue for successful business people.

Allyson Lewis, 11/24/2011

Prioritizing how you will choose to spend your time implies that you have first clarified and ranked what is most important for you in life. In the introduction of a book I highly recommend, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, Winifred Gallagher made three statements that define attention and helped me understand the magnitude of every tiny decision regarding what I consciously choose to focus my attention on. She wrote:

1. "Indeed, your ability to focus on this and suppress that is the key to controlling your experience and, ultimately, your well-being."

2. "What you focus on from this moment will create the life and person yet to be."

3. "Your life becomes the sum total of what you focus on."

Priorities help you determine your this's and that's in life. The number of minutes and hours in every day have never been the issue for successful business people; great success is created by focusing your full attention, your drive, and your passion on the priorities that are most important to you and the clients you serve.

Last month I told the story of Michael Sears, a 36-year-old financial advisor who had a serious stroke--in that moment, his priorities and his life changed forever. Not surprisingly, as he prioritized his daily work habits to align with his highest personal values, his revenues rose dramatically.

The '7 Minute' Priorities & Values Survey Results
In our last article we invited you to participate in our "7 Minute" Priorities & Values Survey (we welcome you to take the survey by clicking here). These are some of the results so far:

When was the last time you prioritized your values in writing?

27.4%: Prioritizing what is most important in life is part of my regular business planning.
28.4%: I prioritize my values in writing every few years.
26.3%: I have a vague idea of what is most important in my life, but I have not put those values in writing.
15.8%: I have never placed my thoughts of what is most important into writing, but I would like to do so.
2.1%: I don't think prioritizing my values is important.

Does it surprise you that only 27.4% of the people who participated in the survey stated that prioritizing what is most important in life is part of their regular business planning? I am not surprised at all. People are so busy, they believe they don't have time to self-reflect and think about their priorities, their values, and their purpose in life.

Select all values that are important to you.

88.4%: Love
85.3%: Family
77.9%: Friendships
74.7%: Relationships
72.6%: Meaningful Work
72.6%: Health
71.6%: Happiness
67.4%: Making a Difference
67.4%: Honesty
66.3%: Learning

One of the primary benefits of participating in the "7 Minute" Priorities and Values survey is perusing the survey's 75  common human values.  Just reading through the list of 75 values is often a starting point to help people realize there are so many important parts of life that they want to focus their time and attention on. It is interesting that in this survey the top four values revolved around connecting with people.

We believe simple awareness is the beginning of action. After prioritizing your values, will you make any changes in your life?

For me, the most exciting part of the survey was that 62.1% of the participants said that by simply becoming aware of their priorities, they believed they would make changes in their life.

Do Your Priorities Really Matter?
A couple of case studies demonstrate how a focus on priorities translates to business--and personal--success.

John Weller: The Value of Relationships
John Weller is a certified mortgage planner and has been in the mortgage industry for almost two decades. His story is an inspiration. John viewed himself as successful and enjoyed his work, but he believed that inefficiencies and distractions were holding him back from something greater. Just working harder wasn't going to cut it. In 2009, John began to realize that his values and priorities weren't always exactly in line with the typical tasks, calls, and meetings that filled his days. At the end of 2009, John decided that deepening relationships was one of his top priorities. He wanted to connect with people in a radically different way.

After re-evaluating his life purpose, John decided to set 2010 as the "Year of Deeper Relationships," one of his key values in life. He decided to focus on deepening his relationships with his best clients, his referral partners, his coworkers, and especially his family. "I was reminded that the people in my life are what is most important to me, not just getting things done."

Each time he met with someone in person or on the phone, he truly wanted to engage with them at a deeper level. He wanted to listen, he wanted to connect, and he wanted to contribute something valuable to their lives.

Very quickly, John's phone began to ring off the hook and his inbox was overflowing with lead opportunities. He and his team were ready to deliver top-quality service to double and triple as many clients as his next highest competitor. Because of his strategic planning in 2010, out of hundreds of thousands of mortgage professionals in the United States, John moved up to number 51 in the country with $103 million in closed loans in a single year. After a decade of producing at a very high level, John's goal of deepening relationships and making small adjustments nearly doubled his production in one year.

Dave Savage: The Value of Surpassing Expectations--The Concept of WOW
Dave Savage describes himself as a "total entrepreneur from birth." An accomplished businessman, one of Dave's driving values is to surpass expectations in every aspect of his life and his business, using his personal values as guideposts along the way.

In 1986, Dave had a vision of a new way to help loan officers become more successful by empowering them with the tools to help homeowners make informed, intelligent mortgage decisions.

Dave became passionate in the belief that he had developed a unique solution to a problem that affected the lives of millions of Americans. With his single, transformative idea, Dave and his partner built a company known as Wow Tools (now Mortgage Coach). The company was named after a core company value, that of delivering a WOW moment to every customer. Today the company is the leading provider of information and productivity software to more than 6,000 loan officers who have collectively helped hundreds of thousands of homeowners make better decisions about their futures.

Dave applies three core principles in his business:

1. He delivers WOW moments.
2. He provides obvious, tangible value to both client and end consumer.
3. Last, but perhaps most importantly, he focuses on making complex systems drop-dead simple.

Combine these three principles and you get a value system centered on delivering quality business and life-enhancing products that are a joy to use.

Conclusion
We teach that without a full awareness of your priorities and values, you cannot reach your full potential. When you take the time to consider what you value the most, it brings attention to whether or not your daily actions line up with those values. As you rank your values, you realize your priorities. Focusing on your priorities then allows you to spend your time and attention on what is most important, therefore making you a happier and more successful person. So, are you focusing on your priorities?

Time management expert and best-selling author Allyson Lewis has spent the last 29 years developing and teaching concrete, actionable business ideas all over the country. In her latest book, The 7 Minute Solution: Creating a Life with Meaning 7 Minutes at a Time, she shares strategies to help you Prioritize, Organize and Simplify your life for greater meaning and productivity. Take advantage of the worksheets, webinars, and more--subscribe to the FREE Member Tools area of our website www.The7MinuteLife.com and follow Allyson on Twitter @allyson7minutes.

Allyson Lewis is the author of The Seven Minute Difference. She speaks about improving time-management, increasing productivity, and rediscovering purpose. Find out more about her new online video training program, The 7 Minute Life System, here. She also has a blog and a Twitter account.

The author is not an employee of Morningstar, Inc. The views expressed in this article are the author's. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Morningstar.

The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.
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