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My husband and I have this funny thing we do with each other on occasion. If we’re listening to music, I’ll ask him, “What’s your top five songs today?” Depending on the mood, he’ll rattle off a few songs lingering at the top of his head. My kids have come around to ask me the same thing. If I’m in a silly mood, my oldest will say, “Mom, I bet ZZ Top is in your top 5 today!” The “top 5” has become quite the entertainment fodder at our house.

In all seriousness, though, who can remember more than 5 of anything??

This past week, I was talking with a client about getting clear on how she needed to allocate her time. As the leader, she’s being stretched in many directions…which is so typical, right? But, also, as the leader…you’ve got to prioritize your time and allocate resources accordingly. As we all have heard many, many times – if you try to be everything to everyone, you accomplish being nothing to anyone.

I remember in college, my good professors would only focus on one or two big concepts to discuss during a class period. It kept things clear, kept students interested, and our grades reflected the clarity our professors provided.

In the nonprofit world, I’ve sat in countless meetings when board members would consistently pull back the conversation to “What is the ONE thing we do well?” If you dilute the mission, you dilute funding…you dilute your board…and ultimately, what’s the purpose of your organization in the first place?

In government, I can tell you that my former boss was crystal clear on her top initiatives needed to improve student performance. We had a plan. We had clear goals, and it was easy to communicate that message when you knew where you’re ultimately headed.

Personally, I can only keep track of up to three activities with the kids…otherwise, I start losing track of who is going where. Yes, I’ve been that mom who forgot that I left a kid at an activity, came home, and then had a panic attack driving across town because I forgot my husband wasn’t available to pick them up. #momwin

You get the drift. Too many things happening at once gets really hard to manage. Clarity matters…and it matters big time. 

I have a two-step method I use to help me get clear about my workflow and big goals.

  1. I have my top three to five goals l set each week. Each Sunday, I look ahead at the week, month and sometimes the next few months too. Instead of focusing on a never-ending to-do list, I focus on the big items I need to spend time accomplishing over the next week and month.

  2. Daily, I jot down a few things I need to be sure and tend to. For example, I always have items to do for the clients I serve. I also allocate time for me to think about my big goals and accomplish a few things each week to help achieve those goals. Let me tell you – you MUST schedule time to think and get clear. If you don’t, that time will never, ever happen.

Sharing your goals is a great exercise to do with your partner or spouse too. I’ve found this is a meaningful way to connect on a deeper, richer level when you’re sharing your dreams with a person who cares about you. If it’s not your partner, then maybe it’s a close friend or colleague at work. The point is to find a buddy who can be honest with you and help hold your feet to the fire and hold you accountable.

The best thing about sharing with a partner is this: it brings accountability to your big ideas. My husband knows what I want out of my business and the organizations I support. He knows my heart better than anyone. He’s also the first to support me when I’m having a tough day and reminds me WHY I do what I do.

So, get clear on your top three to five goals and find a partner who will support you. Keep it simple and easy to manage, and you’ll reap the rewards.