Prioritization Matters: How to Decide What to Do First

As a therapist business owner, there are a million things you could be doing.

You can create a gorgeous social media campaign, update your website, network, do your notes, see your clients… You wear a ton of hats because there’s a lot to do, but what should you do first?

The beauty of being your own boss is that you get to decide…  but that’s also the hard part.

Let’s talk through how the best bosses and business owners make decisions.

Figure out your decision-making process.

There are a lot of ways for people to make decisions— from researching pros and cons to just going with your gut. Here’s my process, for your consideration:

  1. Clarify. Do an assessment of where you are and where you want to go. Get very clear on what your goals are. Understand the decision that you’re facing.
  2. Imagine. Get creative with out-of-the box solutions. Think about your future and the best way to get there instead of sticking with what you normally do. If you want change, step outside of your comfort zone and think of new solutions.
  3. Simplify. Make a list of your options and simplify down to the best solutions. Look at all of the things that can and should impact what you do. Now, when you make  your decision, it will include an actionable plan.
  4. Act. When you’ve made a decision, it’s critical to take action and assess the results. This assessment will help your future decision-making.

Embrace your individuality.

It’s important to recognize that you can’t just do what everyone else does. You’re an individual and there are different things that will impact what’s best for you. Here are some things to consider, that will help you understand who you are and what matters to you.

  1. Mission and Vision: What is the big picture? Remember that most of your decisions should tie back to your overall mission in some way. You want to make sure you’re consistently making steps towards a larger goal.
  2. Values and Priorities: What (and who) you value should definitely carry weight in decisions. And sometimes two things you value conflict with each other, which is when you must look at order of priority. For example, get really clear on when you’re okay missing family events for business and when the business will have to take a back seat.
  3. Logistics: The order of operations is usually based on what you need most. For me, this really comes down to looking at the time, money, and skillset balance. When do you have time to do something and when should you pay for it? When do you need your expertise or when do you need someone else’s (because your skills don’t quite stack up to the standards you’ve set)? These balances are different for each person and you need to know what you can do and what you’re willing to accept.

Make your decision like Goldilocks.

  1. Too slow. Taking too much time to consider every single possibility (or avoiding the decision) can be problematic. Opportunities may pass you by, or you could run out of time to do a good job.
  2. Too fast. If your impulse is to say “yes” to everything, you can get derailed by things that don’t serve your mission or vision. Likewise, your fear may send “no” out of your mouth without thinking of the potential benefits. Take at least a beat to make sure that “your stuff” isn’t getting in the way of a good business decision.
  3. Just right. Provide yourself enough time to clarify what you’re deciding, the consequences of each option, and how your values, priorities, and logistics could impact it. Then act! Don’t over think and don’t wait for absolute certainty. Being a business owner is scary and there are no guarantees. Make sure you’ve done your due diligence, be confident about your decision, and then live with it.

Get comfortable with the results of your decisions.

  1. Sometimes it’s best to be “good enough.” Too many of my clients and colleagues get caught up trying to create the best marketing profile or the perfect website copy before they launch anything online. They want a super cool business card before they start networking. They want to have all their certifications lined up before they start seeing clients. In order to start a good enough practice, you need a place to see clients, a paperwork system, liability insurance, a current license, and a business bank account. That’s it. Yes, it’s great to have a business card and website that “totally reflect you” and speak to your ideal clients. However, if you wait to have for that before you even start letting people know you’re there, you’ll push off your break even point that much further.
  2. You’re going to make mistakes. This is the one that I hate the most. I don’t like to bumble and if I could do everything right and be gloriously perfect, the world would be a much better place. This expectation—and I know I’m not the only one— is unreasonable and counterproductive. If you accept that you’re going to make mistakes, it puts less pressure on decisions. Kind of.

Find a good sounding board.

Sometimes making a decision can feel immensely overwhelming. When you’re facing really important choices and you’re struggling for perspective, find colleagues you trust, a mentor, or even a business coach. There’s no one right way to make decisions, so seek the support that works best for you. It can feel really isolating to be in business, but it doesn’t have to be.

Decision-making is a key skill for success in business. Take some tools, find some support, and have fun.


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