From the December 2006 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

The Top Ten

Identifying your top 10 priorities for next year now will provide guidance for the journey and eventual satisfaction

At the end of the year we often look back and assess how we did--our accomplishments and even our failures. A more helpful approach both in building an advisory business and in providing meaning and purpose, however, may be to look forward, not back, in order to prioritize your goals and plan your activities to meet those goals. In his latest contribution to Investment Advisor, Strategic Coach Dan Sullivan describes in specific detail a procedure to set those priorities now, when they'll have the biggest impact. Beyond setting priorities, Sullivan suggests a down-to-earth way to keep those priorities literally in front of your nose throughout the year, allowing you to stay focused on what's important, and to feel satisfaction and fulfillment from the gradual achievement of your goals week by week.--Ed.

When you think of the activities and events of the next fiscal year, what is most deserving of your attention?

There are hundreds of things that could take up your time over the next twelve months, but they're not of equal importance. Ten of these are more important than all of the others. Knowing what these are early in the year, and having them clearly in your mind right now, can make a huge difference in your progress and sense of satisfaction when you get to the end of the next year.

Your top 10 priorities will provide a continual sense of daily meaning and purpose for this entire year. Make this the year that you are able to plan out each week and each day on the basis of what will make the greatest impact for the entire twelve months.

Whose game are you playing?

Many entrepreneurs aren't able to do this because they live their lives in a reactive rather than a proactive fashion. They are continually being told what to think and do by other people's priorities--instead of their own. Because of this, they lose the ability to use their greatest talents, and are unable to utilize the talents of other people.

They see their clients and customers as a never-ending source of problems and stress rather than as a source of opportunities and satisfaction. Lacking a clear picture of their own priorities, the work they are doing has little meaning or purpose except to make money and pay the bills. This is a sure prescription for personal burnout and staff turnover.

A practical way to Determine Your Priorities

All of this can be avoided by being clear about your most important priorities, documenting these priorities, and then using the document as a daily, weekly, and quarterly guide for your planning and achievement.

The best way to start is with a blank sheet of paper. Ask yourself this question: "Between now and the end of this fiscal year, what most deserves my best attention?"

Give yourself five minutes to write down everything that comes to mind. Don't censor yourself; put down everything that occurs to you.

Then do something else for 30 minutes, letting your mind clear. When you come back, take another blank sheet and draw a line down the middle from top to bottom. Looking at your notes, pick out your top ten priorities for the year, starting with the most important, writing them down the left hand column. Draw a line across the page under each of your priorities. Now, next to each one, use the space in the right column to explain why this is a top priority. Repeat this until you've completed all ten priorities.

Checking In, Constantly

Your ten priorities for the year give you a huge advantage. Have them typed up and copied so you can keep one at the office, another at home, and another one in your billfold or purse. Review it at least once a week, and then plan the next seven days accordingly. As you do this throughout the year, you'll notice a growing sense of satisfaction.

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