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  • Writer's pictureKate Gigax

The High Achiever’s Recipe for Not Doing it All: Prioritize Your Top Five

High achievers can occasionally lack discernment. In other words, the pursuit of excellence often gets applied universally when it would be better applied sparingly. It can be summed up by the question:

When is good enough… good enough?

Getting everything done and going above and beyond while doing it isn’t always necessary, it isn’t expected and it isn’t sustainable. As an example, a client recently reached her breaking point when she set out to run her son’s elementary school auction. In her pursuit of making it a high-quality event, she ended up working into the night for weeks. Was that a strategic decision? It depends. While the intention of being involved in the community is understandable, taking on this task, and maintaining a high standard, ended up being prioritized over sleep and time with family, which were two of her stated priorities.

The problem is that we maintain different systems that often conflict. Our natural tendency is to have “work goals” and “personal goals.” Consolidation is key: What are the top five most important priorities in your life? Consolidating that list into an overall list of five priorities constrains our career focus to about three things. How is your professional success measured? If you worked backward from the answer to that question and constrained your priorities down to three things, what would they be? If you only focused on those things, what would you let go? Is it difficult to let a non-priority go? What happens when you acknowledge that keeping a non-priority on the ‘to do’ list means saying no another top-five priority (e.g., exercise, sleep)?

Deprioritizing something doesn’t need to mean that it no longer happens. These items can be delegated, outsourced, deferred or downsized. Can they get done through you, just not by you?

Likewise, how do you measure the success of your quality of life? This is an area where we’re less likely to have key performance indicators (KPIs) established. So we must create them. What are your measures for quality of life: joy, time with people you care about, wellness, rest? How can you apply your high-achieving nature to those areas? That might look like scheduling dinner with friends twice per month or meditating three times per week. It starts with prioritizing them with the recognition that, to truly prioritize, something has to go. By achieving a better balance between these two, sometimes conflicting areas, you’ll have more time and energy for the things that are truly important.

Strategies for prioritization:

  • Determine your integrated top five priorities that span work and quality of life

  • Create your KPIs/metrics for non-work priorities

  • Soundcheck the top 5 priorities with a matrix of people in your life - whether your managers and colleagues, friends, family or mentors who can support you and hold you accountable

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