Buy Time

If I told you…

You could get 15 hours of your week back for 100 dollars, how fast would you take your wallet out?

My bet is, you do.

I don’t know what a low priority is, that is up for you to decide.

With that said…

How many things you do are low priority tasks you taking on?

Cut One Out

Being decisive often means deciding between two “better” options.

Going through that prioritization is hard. Every decision you make affects a complex system. Nothing is on an island, and my assumption is that you intend on doing the right thing.

It is rough to know that even a little attention to that other option would mean some good in the world.

That is a trap. Eliminate it from your consciousness.

I know “no” when you know the cause is good is painful.

The alternative is a disservice to both. Letting something fall off could lead to someone else picking it up. That can’t happen if you are in the way.

One Thing Only

The sin of “too much.”

Whenever I create any document, I have to take a moment and stop myself.

From what?

The sin of “too much:”

  • Point of view
  • Goal setting
  • Figuring out

Too much of any of those things lead me to inaction (procrastination) or mediocre work. It becomes too easy to become “busy.”

The art of focus relies on ruthless prioritization. One goal. One point of view. Simple negates the need to “figure it out.”

We lead by work.



If You Don’t Cut Their Head Off Cleanly, You’re Doing Too Much


Don’t take on too much

When you committed a capital offense, it fell to the Samurai to cut your head off.In Feudal Japan, they didn’t have electric chairs. 

They used a sword to put criminals to death.

A samurai’s sword, properly taken care of, and proper technique would make short work of the offending parties head.

Senior samurai watched this event with great concern. 

The reason? It was a quick test to see if the samurai had his priorities in order.

To properly take care of your sword, you have to spend a meaningful amount of time cleaning and maintaining the sword. The same goes for your body. 

Spend too much time drinking or hanging out? That cut was going to be ugly when it counted, and you would face great shame.

Same if you spent too much time reading or writing poetry (samurai were artisans as well). 

“Good” or “bad” didn’t matter. Not having your priorities straight, did. 

Too much is too much.

I don’t cut off heads. However, I think there is a great lesson in this idea. 

To keep your sword sharp, use the word, “no.”

These Four Words Can Help You Figure Out Your Priorities

Four words help you think priority out

Before you prioritize, think about building a map.

To do this, gather your team and put them in a conference room. Book some time for focus, because this type of work requires some heavy thinking and discussion.

Once you are in a room, prepare to answer a few questions about the four topics: important, urgent, curious, fun.

Questions (X = important, urgent, curious, fun)

  • What do we find X?
  • Where does X this matter in our history?
  • Why is it X important to the team?
  • How do we implement X?
  • Who is involved with X?

Have everyone go through those questions a few times, and collect the answers.


This gives you insight on what people find important in the room. What is on top of mind is critical in understanding what makes your team go.

Combine this with long-term preparation.

Stop Them at the Ask

You can’t just say “no” to everyone.

It’s hard to say no to certain people. They usually come with titles such as “manager,” “CEO,” or “mom.”

As Bob Dylan sang, “We all have to serve somebody.” And the dynamics at play won’t allow an outright “no.”

That being said, these people want the best for you because it is in their best interest. Your success helps them look good and meet their goals. To work at your best, you have to say “no” to some things.

But, you are in the odd place of not being able to say “no” directly.

How can you navigate that?

I have an exercise that can help with this conundrum.


The plan is to ask to rank their needs and with that, get the prioritization to get the “no” you are looking for in any environment where you have to deal with an authoritative structure (i.e. the office)

  • When the “ask” happens, return the favor by asking a few questions:
    • What is the priority, on a 1 -10 basis?
    • When do you need this by?
    • What resources are available for this?
  • Say what you need to get her (the boss) away, and have an email ready that asks those questions again, along with a list of your current projects.
  • Ask where you want her to slot that new ask, and if any of this is can come off your “plate.”

 This exercise “stops them as they ask,” giving people the opportunity to redirect energy and remind them of what is important (something we all could use) at the same time.  It saves your energy so you can focus on what matters.