It happens to me more often than I care to admit.
My calendar is packed for the day’s work. I have to get a bunch of writing done. I am going to be building out more sections of my online store. I’m scheduled to knock out some research for my copywriting client.
These are activities that, either directly or indirectly, impact my family’s finances. Some of it is part of a long-term focus (building out this author platform and connecting with my audience), and some is part of short-term stuff (current copy projects, increasing store revenue).
And then, you know, I spend 45 minutes reading blogs and putzing around on the Web, effectively derailing my tightly-scheduled day.
I spend the remainder of the day trying to figure out what I can and can’t fit in, what’s more important to focus on, and how I’m supposed to feel accomplished when I’m done.
This leads to a period of self-loathing, which leads to more time-wasting, which leads to less productivity, which leads to a really disappointing work day and a crabby guy leaving the office.
I’m an entrepreneur. My activities impact my income. It’s a fact. And in my head, I know this. In my head, I place a high priority on productive activities.
Sadly, none of that means diddly-squat.
Priorities vs. Action
Back in 2012, I attended the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon. It’s basically a conference of over a thousand people who are trying to do meaningful things with their work.
In the midst of the piles of notes I took while attending workshops and seminars, one five-word sentence has stuck in my head as being possibly the more forehead-slappingly obvious statement I’ve ever come across:
“Your actions are your priorities.”
Think about that.
It doesn’t matter if you have good intentions or not. Heck, we all have good intentions! The road to failure is paved with good intentions.
What matters is the execution. Every time you make a priority and then follow it up by wasting time, you are choosing to prioritize something else. It doesn’t matter how you feel.
If I prioritize meaningful writing, but I spend over an hour of my “Content Development” time reading up on what is plaguing the Green Bay Packers offense or the latest on why Sheamus is a terrible choice for WWE Champion, then the priority becomes meaningless.
It’s lip service.
The solution? Be honest.
Honesty and authenticity is all the rage in today’s culture, even to a fault. But I’m not talking about putting on an authentic image of yourself on Facebook or Instagram.
I’m talking about having an honest conversation with yourself.
When you are setting priorities and goals for yourself, and you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, sit down in a room by yourself.
Turn off the music, close the web browser, and sit back in the chair. Now, whether out loud or in your head, start asking yourself: What’s the real reason I’m not getting anywhere?
If you find yourself starting to make excuses, then pepper yourself with the “Why?” question over and over, like you’re a toddler trying to get your parents to explain why the sky is blue:
- I’m not producing nearly enough meaningful writing.
- Why not?
- I keep running out of time.
- I fall behind schedule and can’t keep up.
- I’m getting too easily distracted by other websites.
- I’m psyching myself out of writing.
- I don’t think I write well enough.
- When I write, it feels like the same old, “me-too” type content that I hate.
- I’m not exercising my writing muscle every day.
- My standards are too high and I need to make it easier on myself.
Do you see how that developed?
That’s an actual conversation I just had with myself right now, in typing form. I just put that together and realized it.
Asking “Why?” over and over again forces you to go deeper into the problem and start digging around for solutions. Some days, you’ll find a clean, straightforward answer.
Other days, you’ll be left with more questions, and your hands will be mighty dirty.
But keep at it. Keep digging. Push yourself. Get tough on yourself.
And most importantly, be honest.
I sure didn’t feel like writing today. I was going to develop content this morning at 9:00am and didn’t. I thought it would be another lost day.
But at 3:11am, I decided to open up a new Google Doc and just start typing. Sixteen minutes later, I’ve got over 750 words and an actual, usable document here that I can massage into publishable material.
And that’s because I looked at myself and just asked “Why?” Then I let my brain figure out the rest as I went along.
My priority is to write. But my actions haven't been living up to that. It’s my job to fix that moving forward, or my priorities, goals, and to-do lists won’t get me anywhere I want to be.
Are your actions matching up with your priorities like they should?