Executives and business owners often respond to challenging times by exhorting workers to "do more with less." Yet as individuals we know that personally, such times require us to do LESS with less. The question for us is, "How can we decide what to let go?"

The Business Solutions article "How to Prioritize: Doing LESS with Less Effectively" provides four "how to prioritize" techniques that work just as well for personal choices as for workplace choices. Here is how they may be modified to serve as a tool to prioritize people and things so we can do "less with less" in our personal lives.

1. Be crystal clear about what is important to you.

Often we get caught up in the day-to-day routine or activities, and we lose sight of the people and things that are most important to us. During times of great challenge or stress, it is especially important to take the time to sit back and clarify your personal "big picture." For example, perhaps spending time with your family is important, or working on a hobby. Once you have identified clearly that big picture, prioritizing the people and things that support you becomes much easier.

2. Identify the people and things that truly are critical to your being able to achieve your big picture. Include yourself on this list.

Our lives sometimes seem to be an endless round of "have to" or "should" activities, things, and people. Having (or wanting) to do "less with less" provides us with a perfect opportunity to take a close look at how well each of those things serves us and to drop those that do not support us. Keep in mind that what is most important is making yourself a priority. Surround yourself with people and things that support you. And don't worry about what "people" will say as you start releasing non-critical things, people, and activities: they understand that most of us have to re-assess what we do and how we do it.

3. Question assumptions and beliefs about everyone and everything, including "sacred cows."

Human beings take actions based on their beliefs. Many of those beliefs are so ingrained in our subconscious that we are not aware of them. Now is the time to take a close look at our actions and commitments, identifying and questioning their underlying assumptions and beliefs. For example, when you find yourself wanting to do something but holding back because you think, "I can't do that," stop and ask yourself, "Why not?" Often the answer will surprise you in the form of a belief formed during childhood (e.g., I'm not smart enough). We may be missing out on wonderful opportunities that support us simply because we are holding on to beliefs that no longer serve us well. Give yourself permission to release those limiting beliefs, and enjoy life on YOUR terms.

4. Identify the level of risk you are willing to accept, and take actions that are consistent with it.

When we really examine our level of risk aversion, often we find that it's artificially low. That is, we are more conservative than we could be without seriously violating our boundaries. Here are two questions to ask yourself when faced with what you experience as a risky situation or decision:

1. Realistically, what is the worst thing that can happen if you [take this action or make this decision]?

2. Can you live with that outcome?

More often than not, the realistic answer is not nearly as bad as the unexamined picture we had conjured up in our minds. Similarly, people usually find that the "worst case" outcome is something they can live with easily.

What can you do today to optimize your personal life by doing less with less?

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.

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