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Set Priorities with the 95% Rule

Reading one of Talane Miedaner’s Life Coach blogs reminded me of a rule I’ve tried to use for several years to set priorities. It goes something like this: “95% of everything you do today doesn’t matter, so find the 5% and do it well.” When I started using that rule a hundred years ago, it was an 80% rule, but as I’ve matured the number gradually grows. I expect in another few years it will change to the 99% rule.

Some of you are skeptical and don’t quite get it yet, so let me explain the concept in a little more detail. You see, we get overwhelmed with life too often. We allow ourselves to worry about things that no one really cares about in the long run. We lose out on the important because of the urgent when the urgent will disappear without a thought and no one will remember it tomorrow. If you think about it, most of the things you do and most of the things that happen to you today, you won’t remember next week or even this time tomorrow. And no one around you cares about it either.How-to-Set-Priorities

I find it really interesting with what we do for work at the expense of family. I’ll have to admit I’ve been guilty in the past. I had to get that report done. I needed to make one more call. I had to meet one more client. Hogwash! When I left the assignment or the company or the job, my position was filled in no time and no one cared whether I was there or not. Life goes on for the company. But I can never get back the ball games missed, the recitals unheard, the birthday parties where I showed up late, or the anniversaries when I was out of town. Those are gone forever.

How about that report that must be done by close of business? Who’s going to read it at close of business? Will it lay in the inbox until morning anyway? Why miss that important event? Make a deal with the task master and come in early to deliver it so you don’t miss that once in a lifetime special event. If your boss makes you miss the event, you’re probably working for the wrong boss. Start looking for different work! That said, there are certainly times when work needs to come first, but not often. There are times when you need to come first. There are times when family comes first.

Priorities are fluid

Priorities are fluid things based on a lot of factors. I’m not a big fan of a making a hard and fast inflexible priority list except that God is at the top…period. Apart from that, when I was writing the medical support plan to make sure 135,000 soldiers had the right medical care in Desert Storm, that task took priority over my family for the moment because of the gravity of that task. It didn’t mean I didn’t love them or care for them, but the situation dictated they took a back seat for a period of time until that task was done.

Sometimes, I’ll recognize from the tone of text or phone call from a family member that a crisis is unfolding and walk out of a meeting because family is more important than whatever meeting I’m in. If I lose a sale because of it, so what. Family is more important than any amount of money that meeting might have brought to me. One word of caution about living with flexible priorities. You need a strong compass and those close to you must understand how you operate. Communication is key.

So what’s the real secret to discovering the 5%? Usually, normally, most of the time the 5% will deal with eternal things and relationships. That’s it. That’s the magic formula. Nothing else matters much. Material things disappear and just aren’t that important. If you don’t believe that, ask hurricane victims or flood victims. Stuff can be replaced, people can’t. Take care of relationships and the rest will fall into place.

What do you think about the 95% rule?

Do you have a comparable philosophy?

How do you set priorities in your life to keep well-balanced?