PRODUCTIVITY

How to Stay Totally Focused on What Matters Most

Your calendar should reflect your business priorities. Here's how I made that happen--and you can too.
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As a social media entrepreneur and author, I get contacted by dozens of people each week who want my help or want to work with me. I put myself out there, and since responsiveness is so important to social media--as well as one of my personal core values--I reply to each and every person who asks for my help. I used to even meet with anyone and everyone who reached out.

Even if you're not as active as I am in social media, if you're a business leader, you're often solicited by salespeople, asked for help from random people, and presented with many would-be distractions on a daily basis. If you're at all like me, you may try to be nice--or helpful--and take that call, reply to that email, or even agree to that meeting.

Why I Shifted My Calendar Priorities

I had a powerful experience several months ago that changed all that. I had attended a conference hosted by Entrepreneurs Organization founder Verne Harnish on strategic business planning. Verne is a brillant mentor and trusted friend, and something he said that day really stuck with me: "You can understand your business strategy with one quick look at your weekly calendar." 

At that moment, I took a look at my weekly calendar on my phone, and saw it was filled up with meetings and phone calls with people I didn't know, who would likely make no difference to my business. Sure, I might be able to help them. But my first priority is my family and my second is my employees, investors and customers--and it simply wasn't fair to them to take all those meetings. Not only did the meetings and calls themselves take me away from my focus, but thinking about them before and after the meetings continually distracted me. 

How I Handle Meeting Requests Now

After that, I decided to start a program I call "office hours." Each week, for two hours on Thursdays, I now meet with people who have reached out asking for help, in 15-minute time slots.

This includes students, former employees, wanna-be entrepreneurs, and salespeople. I still reply to and try to help each and every person who comes my way. But once the time slots are full, people are booked for the following week's office hours, and so on, and so on, no matter how far out in the future I have to go.

This has made it a lot easier for me to say "No" to meeting requests, or at least, "No, until my next office hours opening three months from now." The people who genuinely want help, or want to help me end up meeting with me when my schedule avails, and others tend to go away.

People may have to wait a while to chat with me, but they'll get their shot during those two hours a week. And, more importantly, my calendar is now more reflective of my priorities, as 95 percent of my work week is spent on what matters to my employees, investors, and customers.

How do you stay focused on your priorities each week? Let me know in the comments below.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jul 31, 2013

DAVE KERPEN | Columnist | CEO, Likeable Media

Dave Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable Local. He is also the co-founder and chairman of Likeable Media and the New York Times best-selling author of Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business. Want to learn about how to grow your business using social media in two minutes? Click here.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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