Content Marketing, Social Business, Blogging and Content Creation, Social Media Staffing and Operations

The Dirty Secrets of Time, Priorities, and Honesty

I hate excuses. And the one I despise most of all is “I don’t have time.” Bullshit. You can find the time. It exists. You choose not to devote the time, and there’s a big difference.

I don’t work out. (people that have met me in person are LOLing about the understated nature of that last sentence) Sure, I’m a busy guy. But I could absolutely work out if I chose to do so. I could get up earlier. I could stay up later. I could stop doing other things that I currently do instead. But I don’t. Because (perhaps foolishly) it’s not a priority for me.

And it’s all about priorities.

time and priorities The Dirty Secrets of Time, Priorities, and HonestySeveral bloggers who I read regularly are writing less frequently these days. When asked why (by me, or by others via blog comments or Twitter), the answer is always the same:

“I want to write more, but when I get busy with other things, I just can’t write as often.”

What kind of signal does that send?

Bloggers hope and expect that readers will subscribe to the RSS feed, return often, leave comments, and share posts in social media. In short, bloggers want their work to be important to their readers. But it’s not important enough to the blogger himself to find a way to consistently publish?

Whether it’s a corporate blog, group-written blog, or a solo effort, you have to decide how it fits into your master plan.

What’s Important to You

The same is true of just about everything else in business and in life. You have to decide where on the infinite scale of ways to spend your time each of those things are slotted. When I ran my last digital marketing agency, we never missed a deadline. Ever. We made it a priority, committed to it, and it governed our behavior and our choices accordingly. I’ll admit that on occasion this commitment to delivering when we promised compromised quality – that taking a couple of extra days might have made some of the work better. But we chose to make deadlines a priority, and we stuck with it.

How important is returning phone calls in a timely fashion? How important is atomizing your content, and turning it from a blog post into a Slideshare presentation? How important is answering a customer question on Twitter within 10 minutes?

Fess Up If Your Priorities Change

Of course, our lives change and circumstances change. But when that happens to you, take the time to give the ramifications of those changes real thought, helping to see how priorities might have to shift correspondingly.

And most importantly, be honest with yourself. Admit that what once was critically important to you (like writing consistently) might not be as important now. Don’t blame it on not having enough time. That’s just code for “I don’t care as much as I used to, but haven’t admitted it to myself yet.”

So as we wrap up this crazy, crazy 2010, spend a few hours with yourself thinking about your priorities this year, and how they could or should change in 2011. It will give you a lot more clarity (and a lot less guilt) down the road.

(Image by Shutterstock, a Convince & Convert sponsor)

  • Jim Everett

    Jay, you just made a reader out of me. Even though we’re not honest with ourselves, we’re not BSing anyone else a bit. They see right through our crap.

    The other side of the coin is that when we’re honest with ourselves we start taking back our decision-making power from the convenient excuses we delegated it to. Will power is a finite precious resource that we must reclaim in small ways.

    Thanks for the great reminder!

  • Jen Brentano

    Spot on! When people tell me they “don’t have time for…” I tell them you have all the time there is. We have the exact same amount. It really does come down to priorities – you really hit this spot on. This is one of the best conversations I get to have with my clients. Not having time is an easy and lame excuse yet we all use and have used it and will probably continue using it. All we have is the present so make a choice to spend that wisely.

    Cheers!

  • http://twitter.com/jmitchem Jim Mitchem

    I’m curious which blogs you read by authors who don’t write often? You prioritize your time to go to these blogs to check on them to see if they’re writing? Because, my blog is pretty good, i write fairly often – and I don’t think you’ve ever been there once.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      I don’t “check” to see if people write less. They just show up less in my RSS reader. Or I’ve seen/heard them talk about writing less.

      And I visited your blog just now. So we’ve covered that base.

  • http://www.brainwads.net/drewhawkins Drew Hawkins

    I’ll be honest, this was a wake up call for me. There are definitely things I slip up on but mainly because they aren’t that important to me anymore. Kinda puts the whole New Years Resolution thing into perspective. Instead of making empty promises to myself, it may be best to just sit down and align what my priorities are for the next year.

  • Anonymous

    Great post, Jay.

    I completely agree with the sentiment here. I quote Yoda, “There is no try. Do or do not.”

    Succinct and dead-honest post.

  • http://twitter.com/rachaelseda Rachael Seda

    Everything in life is about priorities and the choices you make show what your priorities are without you even having to say so. Thanks for a reminder to revisit and think about what should and should not be a priority in our life in order to reach our goals in the coming new year.

  • http://twitter.com/Krazy_Kris Kris M O’Connor

    Ah yes – time management in alignment with our values – so important, yet so easy to forget. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and touched on it a bit on my recent Freshly Pressed piece ;-)
    http://krismoconnor.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/t5-sneaky-productivity-lies/

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Fantastic Kris! I feel exactly the same way. Nice post.

      • http://twitter.com/Krazy_Kris Kris M O’Connor

        Thanks so much Jay – nice to officially meet you – I’m a newbie so I’m still learning about the cool kids ;-)

  • Travis

    Thanks for calling my bullshit! Great post for me and the new year ahead.

  • Kate Ertmann

    Exactly Exactly Exactly. I’ve been saying this for the longest time — it’s all about priorities. Nothing makes me roll my eyes more than someone saying “I’ve been so busy, that’s why I havent called you.” — I get it, I’m not a priority…and you know what? That’s totally ok! I understand if you are an entrepreneur and you have a family and young kids, I totally get if I am not a priority in your life. Most folks think calling it priorities is rude and it’s better to say ‘I’m busy’…but it’s not an honest response, to them or to yourself.

  • MatthewLiberty

    I completely agree Jay, saying there is no time is crap; prioritizing will allow time for the things important to you. As a self diagnosed ADD sufferer (mostly kidding), I just find it hard to get laser focused on one single thing…so that tends to be a bigger problem for me than anything else. But I, like you, am not a fan of people saying they don’t have time, great reminder.

  • Amerson

    Jay, Have you ever read the old classic ’7 habits of highly effective people’?

    Flows nicely from what you’ve discussed here and in one section outlines how the most effective people focus most of their time on – Important but not urgent activates. Spending time this way reduces the amount of crisis and quick fixes that occur in your daily life and increases the amount you can accomplish. The trick that many people face though is identifying which actually are the important tasks. You hit the nail on the head. It’s about determining your values and long term goals and aligning you priorities accordingly.

    It’s a good read if you haven’t read it before.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Absolutely. It’s been awhile though. I should pick it up again.

  • http://www.joemanna.com/blog/ Joseph Manna

    Good point on this one, Jay. I think it’s important to recall that we’re all given the same 24 hours on this earth. If we don’t prioritize publicizing our message, ideas, tips for our fans and friends to see… what *are* we prioritizing?

    While we make new commitments for 2011, let’s do it publicly. It’s accountability and transparency and it allows others to ask how you’re doing on your goals. Not only will you feel proud for doing that, your audience respects you for it.

    (You as that ambiguous third party in the room.)

  • http://msherrwhenonline.com Ms. Herr / @MsHerr

    To contribute my echo to the chamber, great post. I like your main point on prioritization, but even more, I like your sub-point on reciprocity. A measure of performance that only tracks results or output is incomplete; it must also measure input. No banks pays out interest on an empty account. How can we expect a return on anything that we aren’t first contributing time, effort and energy to?

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      That problem is big, and only getting bigger. There’s a dangerous fallacy running around that if you just get yourself a Facebook page or write a blog post now and again you somehow are being social, and have a “content marketing strategy”.

      I have another rant brewing about effort. What we have in our grasp is transformative technology that enables us to connect in a contextually relevant, impactful way with people that have decided they care enough about us to opt-in to our musings via social channels. This technology is largely free, and carries with it a very shallow learning curve.

      But many people want free, easy to learn, and also for it to not take much time or effort?

      C’mon!

      • http://msherrwhenonline.com Ms. Herr / @MsHerr

        Effort. And depending on your goals, emotion. I definitely want to read that rant. I know we think similarly on many subjects related to social, yet you articulate in a way that always seems to hit the nail on the head just right. I’ve always appreciated that. Thanks, Jay.

        And merry Christmas!

        • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

          Merry Christmas to you too!

          See you at SMAZ in February.

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    Jay: Reminds me of a similar post by a mutual friend, Tamsen over at Brass Tacks Thinking: http://www.brasstackthinking.com/2010/11/playing-the-zero-sum-game/ – We all have 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, etc etc. It’s how we *choose* to use them. I think that’s really what separates those who are successful from those who are not – picking what to do and when. Where do you spend your time? How much time do you dedicate to each task? Is it better to comment on that blog post, to send a tweet, to tweak one more slide in your presentation deck, to respond to that email? Again, it’s all choice.

    Frankly, it’s something I struggle with the most. Maybe it’s my undiagnosed ADD. Maybe it’s the fact that I love so many things. Maybe it’s that I sometimes spend too much time multi-tasking (link drop #2: http://www.christopherspenn.com/2010/12/multitasking-is-still-a-lie/).

    Thanks, as always, for having the courage to write a killer blog post like this one.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    http://www.blueskyfactory.com
    @djwaldow

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Word. Anything Tamsen says, I can basically echo without even reading it. Perhaps the most underrated mind in social media and marketing today (other than you). And that Chris Penn kid ain’t bad either.

      Thanks for the kind words and for dropping by. I really should be writing next week’s blog posts, but that damn Angry Birds beckons!

      • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

        Word back at you. Very kind of you to say – about Tamsen, Penn (and me!).

        Still have not downloaded Angry Birds.

        • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

          Do NOT download Angry Birds. Seriously. It will steal your soul. My friend Rob Ackley turned me on to it, and I may never speak to him again.

      • http://twitter.com/tmatte63 Tom Matte

        I would argue that Angry Birds is a tool that helps train us to focus. The next step is applying that focus to other disciplines. Like writing perhaps or maybe even working out.

      • Look4posts

        Well, you boys certainly know how to make a girl blush. Thank you.

        • http://brasstackthinking.com Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear)

          I have serious Disqus fail.

        • http://brasstackthinking.com Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear)

          I have serious Disqus fail.

        • http://brasstackthinking.com Tamsen McMahon (@tamadear)

          I have serious Disqus fail.

      • Look4posts

        Well, you boys certainly know how to make a girl blush. Thank you.

      • Look4posts

        Well, you boys certainly know how to make a girl blush. Thank you.

  • @penniemcnulty

    Hey Jay, another insightful, informational and entertaining post. As a one who often has to “spin and fire” it’s a great reminder that we all have choices to make. I’d write a bit more, but… :)

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thanks Pennie. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. I KNOW you’re busy!

  • Amber

    One thing that’s exceedingly hard (and you well know it’s smack what I’m coping with right now): it’s the turmoil and whitewater between one set of ordered and established priorities, and the evolution of new ones.

    I hate excuses too. Which means I *really* hate when I’m the one trying to sort through shifting what matters, where the focus should be, how to balance need with want with would be nice. And trying to do it all with grace.

    I think once we *have* a set of priorities it’s pretty easy to say do or do not, there is no try. Sometimes, reshuffling them to accommodate major shifts, upended values, reconsidered dreams…those are the times when it’s easy to fall back on “I don’t have time” when really, the issue is “I’m not yet at peace with where the time should go.”

    Probably something I’m chewing on because of how much I’m experiencing it personally right now – I’m one of those that’s writing less – but the process of choice and making peace with it is a journey in itself, that’s for sure.

    • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

      Amber: Interesting spin on Jay’s post. The evolution of new priorities. Wow. I’ve never thought of it that way. Personally, I’m not sure I’m ever in that “set of ordered and established priorities” mode. Not sure if it’s conscious or not, but I’m always trying to evolve, to get better, to improve. That means that my priorities are in a constant state of flux.

      I guess this all boils down to – as you say – not being at “peace with where the time should go.” Dammit. This life stuff is tough!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Well said. The process of knowing what you are prioritizing isn’t
      always easy – or fast.

  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    When I speak I hear this all the time…I just don’t have time. My answer is always, “If you try it out and see the results, you’ll make the time.” As for you, Mr. Baer. I view working out like brushing my teeth. I don’t go anywhere without having done both.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      That’s why you’re all fit and sporty. Some day. Some day.

  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    When I speak I hear this all the time…I just don’t have time. My answer is always, “If you try it out and see the results, you’ll make the time.” As for you, Mr. Baer. I view working out like brushing my teeth. I don’t go anywhere without having done both.

  • http://flavors.me/40deuce 40deuce

    It’s so true, but I really hate that I just admitted it.
    I definitely can see myself in what you’ve described above, Jay. I always find myself saying that I want to do more, but wind up “not having the time”. The truth is that I may have to change around some of my priorities.
    It’s hard thing to admit and even harder to actually do, but I guess it has to be done sometimes.

  • http://MidLifeCelebration.com jeff noel

    Jay, absolutely loved watching your 19-min video. You have world-class smarts. In this post, your health isn’t a priority for you? For real? Seriously?

    You helped me with your video, maybe I can return the favor. No time to write, be active, be still, study, be organized? Rubbish.

    I write five daily, differently themed blogs every day – 7 days a week for 18-months straight, & now 6 days. And this is on top of my (27yr) corporate gig “mission work”.

    Come on man, do something, anything…walk, take a few stairs, something…I want to keep learning from you. http://www.jeffnoel.com

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thanks Jeff. Like I said in the post, it’s not lack of awareness, it’s lack of priority. Working on it.

  • http://210consulting.com/ Jeremy Blanton

    Jay- Some great points here. Yes, I sometimes blame time for not doing something, when the honest truth is that it isn’t so much not enough time as it is bad time management skills and it being a lower priority to me.

  • Toby neal

    This is so true, and something I’ve been reflecting on. A great article by a Chris of @creativeblogger (on Twitter) talks about giving readers a reason to return. Your value on this blog is getting me to sign up for it, because truth in writing is value.
    Aloha,
    Toby
    http://www.tobyneal.net/

  • http://GinaRau.com Gina

    Jay – Eighteen months later this is still relevant and important. Thanks for sharing today!

  • letstalkandchat

    I just found a great company that builds websites for info products. To keep your costs low, they’ll mentor you on how to create your site, design a marketing funnel (one of the guys works in Hollywood and makes really slick videos), and the other guy programmed Myspace. If you’re looking to have professional web design for your small business and not waste any time or money then check their site out. Check them out: http://www.mikelmurphy.com/easy-info-product-site-system/

  • jenika

    In addition, the catch all phrase of people exclaiming they don’t have time I believe is self-inflating to try and show how important they are.  It’s a red flag to me when I hear that phrase said often by someone and to stay clear away from them.  Too much ego and is narcisstic.

    • jenika

      … unfortunately… our society is fertile ground for narcisstic behavior… so I hear that said way too often.  so glad to know others can relate.