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Don’t Make Resolutions, Make Priorities!

Alan Berg, CSP - The Wedding & Event Industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®

Re-Posted from Alan’s Blog with his permission.  Thank you my friend!!

At this time of year, it’s common for many of us to make New Year’s resolutions, and they’ve become a running joke as they should come with expiration dates. How many resolutions have you had that have fallen by the wayside, all too quickly? Why is that? At the time you made them you had the best intentions; the underlying reasons, whether personal or business, were sound. I believe that they fall by the wayside because they never get the priority they need and deserve.

Priorities drive our schedules
If you need to get your kids to school by a certain time in the morning, that’s going to be your priority over getting on the new treadmill you bought for the holidays. The treadmill will be there when you get back from dropping them off at the bus or at school, but the kids can’t be late. So, if the treadmill is still there when you get back, why don’t you get on it? Priorities! You check your email. You get distracted by hundreds of other possible butterflies and shiny objects. You tell yourself that you don’t have the time.

But I don’t have the time
I’ve written and spoken a lot about this subject (see Are You Too Busy to be Successful? and Your Attitude for Success), because I’ve also lived it. Over the years I’ve told myself I don’t have the time to do lots of things… until I made them a priority. When I was 39 I told myself I didn’t have time to do Tae Kwon Do with my kids. Once I made it a priority, I started going (eventually 2 or 3 times a week) working my way up to a 2nd degree Black Belt… one that I didn’t have the time for.

In those presentations and articles I speak about your Today List versus your To-Do List. Your Today List consists of all of those things that have to get done Today, such as taking the kids to school, answering client emails, and other work and personal tasks. Your To-Do List are all of those bigger-picture things; many of which languish on your list, whether it’s a physical list (on a dry-erase board) or virtual list. If you’re like me, I had a list that just got longer, and longer. When I finally crossed something off my list, instead of it feeling great, I saw how many other things were on the list and it deflated my elation. The key that I outlined was to have a shorter To-Do List, and actually work on it.

Everything can’t be a top priority
Like it or not, everything can’t be your top priority. You have to choose which things will have the most impact, personally and/or professionally, and work on those. I have way more ideas than we can implement, so I have to choose. My To-Do List always has 3 things on it. Some will take longer than others, and will require more steps, but never more than 3 at a time. We then break down those 3 things into pieces that can get done, either by me, my assistant Katie, or by someone outside our company. If it’s a choice of it never getting done—or paying someone else to do it—weigh the opportunity cost of not acting and decide. If you really want to get it done, and paying someone will cost you less than you can make from the outcome, then bite the bullet. Will they do it as well as you? Maybe, maybe not, maybe they’ll do it better. Whichever is correct, it is getting done.

Some things you can’t outsource
If it’s something that only you can do, such as me becoming fluent in Spanish, then find the time to devote to it. I use audio courses and practice in my car, in the airport and when I’m walking down the street (or out for a walk for exercise). It may be 15 minutes here and there, but that adds up. If exercising more is your goal, try parking farther away from the store, taking the stairs instead of the escalator/elevator. If losing weight is your goal, it may sound obvious (the best solutions usually are) eating less has been shown to be very effective (I know, duh). Try ordering smaller portions, or even eating with a smaller fork. You can also do what my Mom’s friend did; when the food arrived at the restaurant, she would cut off a portion and pour salt all over it (so she wouldn’t eat it). You could also ask for a to-go container immediately, so it’s not on your plate, tempting you to eat it.

Priorities, like most things in life, are about choices and being present. Paying attention to what we need—or want—to do, and then making the choices that will get us there is the key to actually achieving those things. So, what is it that you want to get done this year? How can you move it to the top of your priority list? Better yet, what one small step can you do today that will get you closer? I’m writing this article while walking 3.8 mph on my treadmill—multi-tasking at its best! If you want to, or need, to make a resolution—resolve to list your priorities and then stick to them. It’s ok that they will change, but commit to the change as well. I like to tell others what’s on my list, so it makes me accountable. I’m not looking for their approval or judgment, but I do like it when someone asks me about something on my list.

Now it’s your turn
Make your list, then prioritize it. The key is to get rid of the rest of the list, so it doesn’t distract you. Be realistic, but reach high. Don’t set yourself up for failure, but also don’t make it so easy you don’t challenge yourself to do more. I look forward to hearing your stories of success (in English or Spanish).

After I wrote this article I started thinking that some of you might be curious as to what was, and is, on my list, so here you go…

What was my 2015 To-Do list?
For 2015 I had 3 big things on my list.

  1. The first which is an ongoing project, is becoming fluent in Spanish enough to do presentations in the language. That’s not something I can achieve in a year, and I’ve been working on that for 3 years now. On my list for 2016 is doing that presentation en Español.
  2. The next was coming out with a new audio collection, The Sales Series, consisting of 12 presentations I’ve given around the country and internationally, on sales and sales-related topics. Check! We launched it in time for Wedding MBA; it’s available on CD and MP3 download on my website.
  3. The last thing on my list was to launch an online learning community, so wedding and event pros can have access to videos, audio, articles, interviews and more, any time you want, and on any device. Check! Wedding Industry Insiders launched last month and it’s ready for you, and your friends. It is chock full of great content, with new content rotating in every month. You can even get 50% off having me do a website review, or $500 to $1,000 off having me come to do private sales training for you, depending upon which Access Pass you choose. Check it out at

What’s on my list for 2016?
Here’s where I make myself accountable to you:

  1. You’ve probably guessed at number 1; I’m going to present in Spanish in 2016 (not in January). It may not be a long presentation, but given the opportunity, I will present one of my topics in Spanish, in Mexico or another Latin American country. Any takers?
  2. I’ve been working on my next book, Shut Up and Sell More, and I want to have it out in 2016. I’m more than halfway done with it, and now that a few other things have been crossed off my list, I can prioritize this. Stay tuned for the announcement.
  3. As many of you know, I received the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation in 2014. That’s the highest earned designation for a professional speaker in the National Speakers Association and Global Speakers Federation. It puts me in a group of only about 700 speakers, worldwide. There’s another designation, even more rare, called the CSP Global (by the Global Speakers Federation), with less than 100 speakers having achieved this, so far. While I have the speaking credentials, and most, if not all of the technical requirements, the hardest part (and that which differentiates it from the regular CSP) is speaking in 9 of the United Nations designated areas of the world. While in 2015 I spoke in 8 countries—on 4 continents—I need at least 4 more UN designated areas. So, in 2016 it’s my goal to speak in more parts of the world. I’ve already had a conversation about Australia and New Zealand, so stay tuned for more on this.