As a venture capitalist constantly juggling a handful of projects, I have to be very deliberate with how I spend my time. I have to really look at my priority list and ask myself, “What comes first?”
With 2021 fully underway, I wanted to take a moment to share how I go about making and sticking with my New Year’s resolutions in the hopes of inspiring others to reexamine their own. Because the truth is, it’s easy to come up with “things to do.” The hard part is deciding which things to do first—and sometimes, which things simply can’t get done at all.
Here are the four different types of priorities I believe are important in every person’s life, and should (at all costs) never be moved to the bottom of the list.
For me, family always comes first. I’ve missed meetings, and even turned down jobs, for family. And I’d imagine that after a year like 2020, family has become a much higher priority for every person on the planet.
That said, I don’t want to pontificate and tell you what exactly it is in life we all should hold most dearly. But I will remind you of this: It takes eight people to carry your casket. And during our lives, it’s likely those same people who will carry us as we reach for happiness, love, and fulfillment—and be willing to drop everything, hop a plane, and be there for us when we need them most.
So it’s worth asking: who did you make a priority throughout 2020? And if you want to move family higher up on your priority list, what’s your plan for doing so this year?
2. Meaningful friendships.
Each holiday season, I send gift boxes with chocolates, candles, and other small tokens of appreciation to 50+ friends and family members. This year, I found myself behind the eight ball—but I still made it happen. And the reason I made it happen was because the action is tied to a high priority for me: letting people I care about know I’m thinking of them, and that our relationship means something to me.
In addition to sending over 200 holiday texts and emails, every year during the first week of January, I also send a ‘Happy New Year’ card with a personal note to people I haven’t seen in a while, or people I just want to make sure know what they mean to me. This year’s said something like, “Thanks for being an important part of my life this past year. Looking forward to 2021—and crossing my fingers hoping it’s a bit less crazy than the last.”
You can accomplish this same goal with a text or an email, but I like going the extra mile because it shows I took the time. It makes the other person feel special, and instills a different level of emotion than you can accomplish just by firing off a text or an email. It truly makes a difference.
3. Passion projects.
Passion projects are relationships we have with ourselves. Make them a priority.
And coming from a design background, I know firsthand that when we let our passion projects go, we are letting the relationship we have with ourselves go.
As we continue in a new year, I suggest you ask yourself: Is there a responsibility you can drop in order to make time for something you’re more passionate about? Maybe you’ve been wanting to fix up a classic car. Or you started building a treehouse in the backyard for your kids and still haven’t quite gotten around to finishing it. Maybe you’ve wanted to start writing more, or reading, or playing the guitar. Whatever it is, the reason you want to pursue it is because you want to have that relationship with yourself.
Whatever it is you’re passionate about, I encourage you to make time for it this year.
When you are first starting your career, you are mostly exploring your interests and deciding how you can create the most value—for yourself and society at large.
As you progress, however, it becomes less about exploring and more about doubling-down on where it is you know you are most valuable—and on what matters the most.
When I think about my priorities for this year, of course, I have career goals and things I want to do professionally. But I have really learned over the years that growth is always the result of investing in the areas where you see the most return within yourself.
You must invest in yourself.
For example, I continue to be a mentor at startup accelerators (because one of my most valuable skills is my ability to identify the missing secret sauce for most startups I work with). For me, this is a priority because I know time spent here has the most meaningful impact on me, personally and professionally. The effort you put into your ecosystems is directly connected to what you will get out of it. I love investing in founders and nurturing startups. I also love mentoring and teaching. And so while there are a lot of different things I could do in either of those areas, deciding to do something that involved both meant I would get exponentially more out of the experience.
When choosing your own priorities, this is the question you want to ask: “Is this where I provide the most value?”
If it’s not, then you’re choosing to prioritize things that are valuable, but not the mostvaluable.
Which leads to a long To-Do list of less valuable priorities.