I was on a flight headed to Atlanta.  I had my laptop out and was doing some work as I passed the time.  I glance across the aisle at the woman seated there.  She had what seemed to be a pile of dog-eared business cards and scraps of paper in front of her.  It looked like she was sorting through it.   Business Cards Table

I watched for five minutes as she pulled Band-Aids out of her pile along with those key fob things you get from grocery stores.  She read through notes and seemed to make two piles.  

Then she gathered up one of the piles and tried to clip it together with a huge clip.  The clip wasn’t big enough.  She went back to sorting.  She reread some notes.  She took enough out of the pile to be able to clip it together.  Then it went into what looked like a special wallet. The wallet was pretty full and she wrapped a big rubberband around it, put it in her purse, pulled out a book and started to read.

I didn’t get much work done during those five minutes, but I was fascinated.  I wondered what made one note important to her and another note trash.  I wondered how something that had previously made the cut was no longer necessary simply because it didn’t fit in the clip.  I wondered what she was going to do with all of the information she kept.  

So why share this story with you?

In many ways it’s all about priorities.  What fits, what doesn’t?  What serves an underlying purpose, what is extra?  What has outlived it usefulness, what is going to be important next?

These are the decisions we need to set in our business and our lives.  I have no doubt that had I been looking at a similar pile of my own that I would have made different decisions than the woman across the aisle made.  I also have no doubt that she would not have agreed with the decisions I would have made.  NOT because my decisions would have been right or wrong it’s just that the decisions would have been made with me in mind and not her.

Should you be looking at a pile of old business cards, notes or a long list of to-dos and ideas, here are five questions that you can use to help yourself decide which fit in the clip and which don’t.

  1. When will I really use this or be in touch with this person?
  2. Is doing this (or being in touch with this person) in line with my current business goals?
  3. If I never saw this note again (or could find this phone number again) would it matter?
  4. Did I even remember I had this?  If not, were you looking for it or missing it?
  5. Is doing (or being in touch with this person) what I want to be doing?

As I work with my clients the questions I most frequently ask are “What do you really want?”  “What do you want to spend your day doing?”  These are the questions that will ultimately help you decide what the priorities in your business and life really are.  

There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of ideas.  There’s also nothing wrong with letting some of them go.  What are you going to keep in your clip?  Let me know by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below.