15 questions to identify priorities & better organize your work life
by George Hedley
December 4, 2017

Many business owners tell me their businesses don’t deliver the results they want and have taken control of their lives. They work too many hours, don’t make enough money and never have enough time to spend with family and friends. They have become trapped in their web of overcommitment. When this happens, stressed, unfulfilled business owners reach a point where they finally realize their priorities have to change.

Many years ago, I was in this same place. I worked too hard, and I put my personal priorities on the back burner. After reading books on how to manage a successful business, I decided to go to a workshop to develop a plan to enjoy the benefits of a company that works for me.

The day after the workshop, I arrived to work early and made a detailed priority list of all the tasks I had to accomplish. Then I prioritized the activities into three columns: must-do priorities, should-do priorities and low priorities.

Then, that day became just like every other day for the past 10 years. I received calls from customers who needed answers, emails that required immediate attention, interruptions from a project manager who wanted approval before committing to a contract, a call from an estimator who wanted me to review a bid due today, a large subcontractor who wanted to be paid and a jobsite superintendent who requested an emergency meeting. By the end of the day, I realized I hadn’t looked at my priority list once.

Find Your Purpose

Most business owners want their companies to build wealth and investments by making significant profits over time. They also want to have a strong management team with structure, systems and processes that allows them to enjoy plenty of freedom and personal time.

A truly successful construction business is purposeful and it stays on target with your priorities. I wanted my business to always make a profit, generate loyal customers, be managed well, grow equity, create wealth and allow me the freedom to enjoy a fulfilled life. Don’t you want your business to work for you, rather than you working for your business?

Decide What You Want

To make this happen, you must have a well-developed business plan with a clear vision of what you want. You also need specific targets and goals that clearly define how you will deliver the results you want to achieve in your business and personal life. Answer these questions to determine what you want:

  1. What would a perfect business and personal life look like?
  2. What do you want your business to become?
  3. How do you want to do business?
  4. How big do you want your business to become?
  5. How much money do you want to make?
  6. What are your financial and equity goals?
  7. What do you want your role to be?
  8. Do you want a management team to run your business?
  9. Do you want to build a great place to work that attracts and retains great people?
  10. Do you want to be organized and systemized?
  11. Do you want to know your numbers and job costs?
  12. Do you want to have accurate pricing and estimating?
  13. Do you want loyal, high-margin customers or low-bid customers and work?
  14. Do you want to build wealth and have income-producing investments?
  15. Do you want to have more free time to spend with your family and friends?

Prioritize & Commit

To achieve the results you want, you must commit to making your vision become a reality. First, make you your top priority. Then you can start working on how you improve your business, how you manage better, how you hire and build a leadership team, how you stop tolerating poor performers, how you delegate and trust people, how you develop and enforce systems, how you focus on the numbers, how you seek higher-margin customers and, most importantly, how you commit to your priorities. If you keep putting yourself second, things will never change for the better.

One client told me he wanted to stop working so many hours and take more time off. After we discussed his goal, I asked him to be more specific. He said, “I would love it if I could take at least 4 hours off on Sunday.” Everyone is in a different place, but to get what you want, start by being specific about how you will balance your business and personal goals. Be ruthless, stick to your priorities and start putting your life first.

Be on purpose and on target. Resolve every day to know what you want. Focus on your personal priorities first and business demands second. Make progress everyday towards achieving your personal and professional goals. And don’t postpone your personal life for business pressures.

Buy Tickets

When you continue to put your business first, you tend to postpone your personal life. For example, you may want to take your spouse out to a special dinner or concert, but you keep finding reasons to stay late at work. You may want to take your son or daughter camping, but bids and estimates too often require you to work over the weekends. You may intend to take your best customers to a ballgame, but you never have the time to get around to it. To put yourself and your priorities first, start buying tickets. When you buy tickets months in advance of events or activities, those events become a top priority. When you buy tickets, they are on your calendar and you won’t schedule business commitments on those dates or times. Most importantly, making time for your personal life will make you a better leader when you are at work.

To work on your top business priorities, make time in your daily schedule for important activities like management meetings, field supervisor meetings, customer lunches and time to work on your business systems or strategy.