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updated 8/31/2013 10:46:07 AM ET 2013-08-31T14:46:07

When I was a kid, my mom would often say, "Jason, don't be selfish. Share with your brother and sister." So, I grew up feeling bad if I didn't give some of my stuff away. It didn't matter if I had worked hard for it, or if I felt that what I was giving away was really mine.

Now I know better.

Does it make good business sense to be selfish? I think so. Of course you have to put yourself first. After all, if you are not taking care of yourself, who is?

Taking care of yourself first is not selfish at all. Rather, "me-first" thinking, especially when it comes to accomplishing your goals at work and in life, often gives the boost needed to move your business forward.

So how do you put yourself first without upsetting others like, say, my mother? Here are four tactics you can use to get ahead today:

1. Define what's most important to you. If you are like most people, you probably have a list a mile long of things that need to get done. But how can you do it all? Chances are you can't. Yet with a conscious effort, you can get what is ultimately most important to you done. And won't that make your life a whole lot more fun? Plus, when you are happy, those around you are most likely happier too.

All goals are valid and can be as diverse as "staying healthy" to "spending time with my children" to "making that business deadline" or "following up from yesterday's meeting." All of these are important but identify what is most important to you and you alone.

2. Integrate your goals with others when possible. Thinking about putting yourself first doesn't mean you ignore the goals or needs of others. Rather, you can view others' goals and see how they fit with your direction. This allows you to support others while still focusing on what is important to you. For example, if you want to take a walk during lunch to support your goal of greater health and someone needs to talk to you, simply invite them along to walk with you. (I got that tip when I heard Nilofer Merchant speak at the TED Conference earlier this year.) They get heard and you get your exercise -- a true win-win.

3. Use your productive time effectively. How else can you get more done toward what is important to you? Identify your most productive time of day. We all know we are more productive at certain points of the day than others. Use that most productive time to move what is important to you forward. Protect your most productive time by limiting interruptions if you can, by not scheduling meetings during this time, and by giving yourself the benefit of true focus dedicated to your efforts. Turn off your email chime. Close any social media distractions. For at least 15 minutes at a time, honor yourself with focus on moving your most important goal forward.

4. Identify challenges. Another important tactic is to stop and ask yourself: "What is getting in my way?" Are there commitments you've made, or routines you engage in that no longer serve you? Maybe you always stop for coffee on your way into work. If one of your identified goals is to "get out of work on time," that extra 20 minutes at the beginning of the day might be better spent focused on something else.

Are there tasks and projects around you that drain your time, attention and energy that can be delegated? Consider creating a "stop-doing" list. Do this and you might discover you have more time than you thought you did.

Change is not always easy. For the next five days identify what you can change to put yourself first. You are in control of your life.

The first step? Take 15 minutes right now to reflect on:

  1. What's most important to you.
  2. How you can integrate your goals with those around you.
  3. What part of the day you're most productive and how you can protect that time.
  4. What patterns you've gotten into that no longer move you toward the life you want for yourself.

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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