You have your list. You’ve checked it twice. But you’re still not 100% sure if you should go left, right, or center.

Prioritization is a choice to focus on what matters and let go of what doesn’t.

So what matters?

Here’s a real example. I am working on three foundations for my business to enable my long-range plan and get some results now.

One focuses on developing ways of working that are simpler and more cost-effective for my customers — the goal is to allow me to impact more business owners at a lower cost. It helps me serve owners who are just getting started in the first 1-2 years and are still bootstrapping much of the work themselves.

The second is to accept work that is hot for my customers right now so I can make an immediate impact for business owners, build short term revenue, and refine approaches that support the work I’m doing in the first pillar.

The third strategic pillar is establishing partnerships critical to my 3-5 year growth plan and strategy.

So – if I have to choose what to do right now, which way do I go? These are all critical, and I need to work on them to some capacity. But not all of them can get the same level of investment at the same time.

When you’re sitting down to prioritize and make decisions, here are a few questions to ask yourself that will help with the decision taken from a variety of sources and re-cast to make sense in a business owner’s universe.

How much does the work enable the business owner I want to become? 

You’ve heard it before. It’s in every book. But do you have a why that is compelling and motivating? If not – how the heck do you get there? You’re different from your neighbor – so what works for you might be different from someone else. There are two general approaches you can use. You can identify what you aspire (or) you can determine what you don’t want to be true, and through the process of elimination, discover who you are and what you want to be. What is the best way for you to learn your why?

My why is clear. I want to change the odds. I want more people to dare to go into business for themselves. I want more people who can sustain their businesses and have the impact they want to have. I want more of us to have the courage to take risks and forge our paths collaboratively while innovating on the shoulders of the giants who have come before us. I want to build a world that is a paradox brought to life.

How likely is it that I can re-use for multiple purposes?

For my decision, the highest re-use comes from option #1. The content I’m creating is multi-purpose. I’ll use it for:

  • Helping clients with specific needs

  • Onboarding new advisors seamlessly

  • Facilitating classes (either free, paid or virtual self-paced)

  • Creating free tools to help my audience and build a community

  • Writing a book to help business owners

  • Consistent practices that help with options and examples that work better in different situations

I decide on what I prioritize in a similar way I decide on what to pack for a backpacking trip.

  • Is it multi-purpose?

  • Can it serve me in a wide range of possible scenarios I encounter?

  • Does it cover my most likely scenarios?

  • Is it worth taking space in my pack? (i.e., is the effort doable and worth the gain?)

  • Does it get me one step closer to my destination?

What’s the worst that could happen if we do it? What if we don’t do it?

Fear can sometimes be the root of inaction or indecision. What if I make the wrong choice? Our brains prioritize potential loss over potential gain.

How do you get past it? You put that fear into perspective by naming and flipping the worst-case scenario. If the worst that could happen isn’t so bad, and the worst that could happen if you don’t act is higher — then it makes these decisions — and staying focused on them — a bit easier.

How urgent is this?

We tend to define urgency in different ways, but very rarely are we clear on how urgent our work is unless the fire is burning right in front of us. I define urgency as the negative impacts or opportunities lost if we don’t act during a specific time. If you’ve outlined your worst case, you’re well on your way to figuring out urgency. Urgency factors in things like:

  • Are you capitalizing on an opportunity while at its peak?

  • Are you meeting customers where they are when they are there?

  • Do you have a deadline that can’t be moved and serves a purpose?

  • Have you thought through the other steps and the urgency of your overall goal? I.e., If you want to build a house to sell in spring; you have to lay the foundation before you can set-up the house frame. The timing of the foundation is just one step in a process you need to get clear on.

How do I impact others?

The decision is rarely just yours to make. Your people decide how effectively to make it happen; your investors who choose whether to invest in it; your customers decide to stick with you through the change. When we make decisions as business owners, we don’t exist in a vacuum. If we are changing every week or going against what our team or customers want, our journey will be uphill. Are we ready for that? Is it worth it? It doesn’t mean you don’t move.

Significant innovations sometimes mean going against the grain. But we do need to take into account why the people we work with feel that way and adjust when it makes sense. And we also need to know we’re ready for it, committed to it, and will support our team and customers during all the roadblocks they will face as we embark on the journey.

Do you feel ready to make your decision?

I do. I am going to double down on my first strategic pillar and focus on how to build re-usable ways to help more business owners at a lower cost, but do it in a way that supports the immediate needs my clients have right now. When I went through these questions, my decision became clear.

Still stuck? Your first 12-month plan is on us. Let us help you prioritize. Schedule your virtual coffee today.

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Jenny Erickson grows micro-businesses by getting them from where they are to where they want to be through advice, coaching, and fractional-COO support. Which business are you?

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