ASA 32 | Priority Over Productivity


If you had to choose, would you go for efficiency or effectiveness? Urgent or important? Priority or productivity? These are, and will always be, issues that all businesses go through. Knowing what to prioritize to maximize productivity is a whole different matter. Alex Mandossian puts his insight on this topic out in the open. He sheds light upon the common mistakes we do in our daily lives that strongly relates to business. Alex then drops knowledge and logic into determining what the best course of action is for this conundrum.

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Priority is the New Productivity

In this episode, you’ll learn three key insights that I believe are critical to making you a highly skilled ethical influencer. You’ll discover why sequencing influences your success more than systematizing your business. You’ll learn why the principle of priority can provide the time and money freedom you’ve always looked for, and third, you’ll learn why one of the four lifestyle choices can have you take control of your future.

You have four lifestyle choices and only one of them takes back control of your future. Lean in and read carefully because this episode could have a significant impact on how you can quickly and easily win the hearts of others.

If English is your second language because we have many readers outside of North America, I do hope that you decide to read this and all the other episodes not once, not twice, but three times because nothing empowers fluency more than learning the art of ethical influence.

First Things First

This is a story I heard this story from Dr. Stephen Covey, who I had the honor of interviewing before his death and it’s from his book First Things First. Dr. Covey is well-known for The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, but I have to admit First Things First is my favorite book. Here’s the story goes as he told it. One day, this teacher was speaking to a group of high-achiever students. He was trying to drive a point home using an illustration that the students would never forget.

As I share this with you now, I don’t think you’ll forget it even if you’ve heard it before. As the teacher stood in front of the group and these were high powered overachievers. He said, “It’s time for a quiz,” and he pulled out a one-gallon wide-mouth mason jar and set it on the table in front of them. He then pulled out five fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them one at a time in the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top because you couldn’t put fist-sized rocks anymore inside that jar, he asked his students, “Is the jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then the teacher said, “Really?” He reached out from under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some of the gravel and shook it into the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves through all the crevices and spaces in between the big rocks.

He smiled and he asked the group one more time, “Is the jar full?” By this time, the class was onto him and the response was, “Probably not,” and he said, “Good.” He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand from the ocean. He started dumping it by the handful and the sand started to creep through those fist-sized rocks and the gravel. All through the little spaces to the bottom and then worked its way out.

[bctt tweet=”Efficiency is doing things right, but effectiveness is doing the right things.” username=”AlexMandossian”]

All the way to the top and the teacher asked, “Is the jar full?” The class shouted, “No.” Once again he said, “You’re getting this. You’re starting to understand the point.” He grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it until the jar was filled to the brim with rocks, gravel, sand, and water. He asked, “Is the jar full?” and they all said, “Yes.”

The question was, “What’s the point?” One student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try hard, you can always fit some more stuff into your schedule.” Sometimes students do that and they don’t get the point and being a grade teacher, he said, “That’s a great answer, but that’s not the point. The point and the truth about this illustration are that if you don’t put in the big rocks first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

That’s why Covey’s book, First Things First, is knowing how to prioritize what goes into the jar of your day or the jar of your life, first, then second, third, and fourth. Priority is the New Productivity, that’s the title of this episode.

Productivity Versus Priority

The late business philosopher who I had a chance to interview, his name was Peter Drucker. He once taught us that efficiency is doing things right, but effectiveness is doing the right things. I believe efficiency is about productivity. I can define productivity in five words.

I have an entire course called Productivity Secrets. Productivity is the maximum results in minimum time. Five words and that’s what it is. Effectiveness is doing the right things. Effectiveness is about priority, in my opinion. Priority is about maximizing productivity with minimum effort. A five-word definition in productivity is maximum results in minimum time.

If you want to be more effective with fitting more results and outcomes into your business life, then I believe you have to prioritize the sequence of what to fit in. You’ll always want to put your big rocks first, your priorities.

You probably have different roles throughout your day. You could be a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, husband or wife, a son or a daughter. You probably have multiple roles. You could be a boss or an employee, a civic leader, whatever, and you probably change hats throughout the day, probably at the speed of thought, but unless you know your priorities than being productive will not get you much.

Being efficient with people isn’t effective, would you agree? I can’t go to my children and say, “You got three minutes,” and I start a countdown timer and I go, “Tell me your problems for now,” as they’re weeping because they had a bad day. That doesn’t work. You can be efficient with projects, but with people you got to be effective. Efficiency is doing things right, that’s having systems. Effectiveness is doing the right things and that’s about priority. I believe in being both, but being effective first.

The goal here is to find your big rocks and then knowing what is second, like what’s the gravel in your life, and then finding what’s third, the sand in your life. Finally what’s fourth, which is the water in your life, at least that’s the way the story goes. It’s not about getting more stuff done.

ASA 32 | Priority Over Productivity

Priority Over Productivity: Priority is the new productivity. It is about maximizing productivity with minimum effort.


I have to admit. I maximized my productivity over the years. I’ve been in business for many years and I thought productivity was the thing. I am creating templates and systems and things like that. The blind spot was by not prioritizing what goes into those systems. I was missing out on scaling my business and avoiding adrenal fatigue. Which I’ve had several times because having maximum results in minimum time is just so much a human being can take.

After being on stage and doing thousands of virtual events, it’s not difficult to have and suffer from adrenal fatigue where everything shuts down and then you can’t be efficient or effective. Priority is the thing.

I want you to think about what are the big rocks in your life? What are the top priorities in your life? What are the top three priorities? Forget five rocks, what about the top three. Jim Collins, he is a famous author, he said, “If you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any priorities.”

I work on three projects at a time and within each project, there is a task. There are a lot of tasks, but I prioritize my projects, I know which one is the most important, where I’m doing the right thing, which one is the second most important and which one is third. If I have too many priorities, then I don’t have any.

Michael Gerber, who’s a good friend of mine, he says, “The system is the solution,” and that’s true, but it’s incomplete. I believe the sequence to the system is the solution. That doesn’t violate his teaching. He is a great man. He is much smarter than I am, but I believe when you sequence things, then it causes you to be more effective and then you can ultimately scale your business, that you’re not a slave and shackled to it or the people in it day after day as I’ve been.

It’s why I’m bringing up this episode so that you don’t have to go through the same thing. No matter how good or great of an ethical influencer you are, you want to prioritize instead of being productive. Once you discern which is having critical thinking about what your priorities are, then becoming more productive, getting maximum results in minimum time becomes a lot easier, more importantly, more fulfilling.

That story is from Dr. Steven Covey’s First Things First. You can get it online. I do recommend you read it. I wanted to find the definition of priority in a way that I learn it from a friend of mine called Steven Pressfield. He wrote a book called The War Of Art. He is a fiction writer. He wrote The Legend Of Bagger Vance, which is a movie if you had seen it. He writes a lot of great fiction, but this is a nonfiction book.

He has written a few nonfiction books, but the one that is most meaningful to me because of its effectiveness is The War Of Art, not the Art Of War by Sun Tzu. He says the thing that always gets in the way is resistance. He defined priority as follows, he says, “Priority is knowing the difference between what’s important and what’s urgent and then doing what’s important first.”

[bctt tweet=”You can be efficient with projects, but with people you got to be effective.” username=”AlexMandossian”]

First things first, priority is knowing the difference between what’s important and what’s urgent in your life personal or professional and doing and discerning through critical thinking what’s important first. That’s how you get fulfilled. That’s how you find your true purpose as we talked about in the previous episode. That’s how you become not only fulfilled, but get what you want, and want what you have, which to me is the definition of happiness.

It comes down to being decisive and decision making scares a lot of people especially when they’re just starting out and there’s a lot of uncertainty for them. Decision by definition means to cut off the decision, like incision, to cut into, like a surgeon. There’s this false hope when you have many options that at least one of them will work.

The challenge is options are like spinning dishes like in a circus or a magic act. When you spin dishes on these sticks like you may have seen, you got to keep jiggling the sticks otherwise the dishes won’t spin. All of a sudden, if you spin too many dishes they wobble and then they start breaking one by one. That’s why it is important to decide what to prioritize as important over urgent in your life.

Another example that Dr. Steven Covey brought before his death is the principle of his famous time management grid of quadrants. If you’re not familiar with it, I’m going to describe it now because it’s useful for the purposes of this episode.

If you decide to focus on what’s important, but not yet urgent. If you’re not used to doing this, you probably doing things that are urgent and important, or worst urgent and not important and you’re spinning out of control if that’s the case. It will take time before you can live a life of effectiveness instead of efficiency.

The false efficiency of doing things that are urgent and important is unnecessary to live in a quadrant of urgent and important. You want to focus on important, but not yet urgent. It will become urgent soon, but if you work on it early like writing a webinar script or a speech months in advance. That’s important but it’s not urgent to deliver it. It’s better than cramming and doing all your PowerPoint slides the night before.

As I have many friends who do that and then they miss slides in their way and the speech isn’t effective. It’s efficient, they make it within their timeframe, but it’s not effective. I’d rather practice it while I’m walking my dog or taking a shower or in the morning making breakfast for my kids.

I want to do something important and not yet urgent. I’ll start practicing the talk I have even if it’s just ten minutes. I’ll practice it for many months in advance. They’re into my pores in my body so that when I deliver it, there’s nothing that can throw me off.

ASA 32 | Priority Over Productivity

Priority Over Productivity: True growth demands to temporarily sacrifice your security.


Here is the time management grid. Time management is a misnomer. I think that’s a myth. You can’t manage time, but they call it that. How can you manage time? You have 86,400 seconds a day. You have the same as I do. We can’t create anymore. We can’t manage that. You have 1,440 minutes a day. You have 168 hours a week. You have 52 weeks a year.

Everyone has the same amount of time, but people do different things with the time that they have. I believe in action management within the time we have. Time management is the problem naming it time management. Do you understand what I’m saying? I don’t think that’s nuance. I don’t think that’s semantics. It’s true, you can’t manage time, but you can manage the actions within the time that we have.

The Four Living Actions

Here are the four living actions the way Dr. Covey described it. Imagine that there is a giant square. That square is divided into four quadrants. In the middle of the square there is a vertical line going down and then it’s bisected across with a horizontal line from the middle going from left to right, then from north to south.

On the upper left-hand corner, that’s the quadrant of urgent and important. If you’re like most people, that’s where you live all day. It may cause you stress, anxiety, worry, but that’s where you are. You are not in control of your life, and in quadrant two, where he says you ought to be. That’s important, but not yet urgent. Quadrant three is urgent and not important. Quadrant four is not important and not urgent.

Think about number three and four. If you stop doing what’s urgent and not important, or not important and not urgent, which is insane, then you’re going to eliminate 50% of your problems. Getting rid of quadrant three and quadrant four, that way you’re not juggling four quadrants, you’re not looking at urgent and important, and important and not yet urgent. Let’s take examples of what is urgent and important. Let’s say you have a newborn baby and there is a fire in the kitchen and the baby is crying.

That is urgent and important, wouldn’t you agree? How about important but not yet urgent? Let’s say you’re planning a marketing campaign way in advance and the campaign is supposed to launch six months from now or three months from now. That planning gives you a lot more time to correct and continue and create multiple iterations. That’s where you want to be so that you can discern and not have that deadline being posted upon you.

When you’re urgent and important, things will pop up, emergencies will be there, but if the rest of your life is there then you’re going to be in a place of insanity. You won’t be living in the effectiveness that you deserve. Important not yet urgent, if you can move over lots of projects and tasks there, when something urgent and important pops up, then you’ll give it a time it deserves. You’ll be a lot more rested and ready to go. You will be a lot more focused on it.

Urgent and not important, what are those? They’re interruptions and daily distractions. I bet you that there are things that are not important to your growth, to your business, but you think you have to participate. It could be a Facebook group that’s not relevant to your business. It could be distractions of bright shining objects, going to seminars that are irrelevant to any project you’re working on. It could be interruptions with people who are either in an office setting or through text, an email.

[bctt tweet=”Everyone has the same amount of time, but people do different things with the time that they have.” username=”AlexMandossian”]

That’s urgent and not important to your cause. Not important, not urgent, you have no business being in this quadrant, that’s trivia or gossip. For some people, it could be news. I know it is for me. It could be drama in the office or with your team or busywork. Not important, not urgent. If you got rid of urgent, not important, and not important, not urgent, and all you have to work on is taking things that are urgent and important over to the quadrant that is important and not yet urgent.

Alexism: True Growth

I hope you go back and reread to this because if you can visualize the quadrants, better yet go to Google and check them out, this will make a lot more sense to you. The Alexism for this episode is this. True growth demands to sacrifice your security temporarily. There is some wisdom in that, so let me say it again.

Emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, true growth demands to sacrifice your security temporarily. I believe that it’s better to sacrifice short-term profit in exchange for long-term wealth. That’s where you’re in a place where it is important and not yet urgent. That’s where the millionaires and billionaires of the world, the ones who truly have arrived, that’s where they are because they can think and they can plan.

Warren Buffet reads about seven hours a day. He says no to 100 different investments until one comes along and he says, “Yes.” He is in that quadrant. I don’t know if it’s true. I’ve only met him once, but that’s what I hear about him and even if it’s not true, let‘s pretend like it is.

Here’s the distinction I want you to know and I said this in a previous episode. The bigger your calling, the bigger your intended purpose in life, the more profound the change you’ll make in life. However, the stronger the resistance will be.

When you’re in the gym, when there is more resistance, it will cause more fatigue, but you will get stronger eventually. As long as you’re willing to take time off so that your muscles can rebuild. If you keep working out again and again and be hyper-productive, you think you will fatigue your muscles and you will be doing more damage than looking the way you want to look.

Let’s take a review of the insights you and I discovered in this episode. We discovered that the system is not the solution. The sequence to the system is the solution. Remember, big rocks first and then gravel and then sand and then water.

Next, we learned that priority is knowing the difference between what’s important and what’s urgent, and then and then doing what’s important first. I encourage to start now, take one project and start moving it from quadrant one to quadrant two. It will take time. It took me about three to six months, but the benefits of quadrant two are amazing.

Let’s talk about the four life quadrants as Dr. Covey taught me. Quadrant one is urgent and important. Quadrant two, where you want to be, is important but not yet urgent. Quadrant three is urgent and not important, and number four is not important and not urgent. Get rid of quadrant three and four and then you’ll be in heaven without the inconvenience of dying. The key is to live in quadrant two. These insights can only work for you if you work them.

[bctt tweet=”The bigger your calling and your intended purpose in life, the more profound the change you’ll make.” username=”AlexMandossian”]

Remember, these insights can only work for you if you work them. Speaking of reviews, before we end this episode as I always do, I want you to go and type in your biggest takeaway or a-ha moment you experienced during this episode if you have done so.

If you’ve already given me a review, which is what iTunes will ask you to do and then rate it. I hope you write your big takeaway on an index card and save it so that it will be a review when you look at the index card rather than reading this episode week after week. Are you tracking what I’m saying? It will mean much to me if you haven’t done it and you do this in iTunes in the review section.

If you’ve never been there, go and explore, but when you do it, iTunes will ask you to rate this episode. I hope I earned five stars from you. Will you do that for me? Go ahead declare your one big takeaway on the iTunes review section, that’s It will take a few minutes out of your day, but what you declare could provide you a lifetime of learning because you’re taking action on what you learned.

I have one final gift for you. You heard it at the beginning of the episode, and it’s in honor of this 32nd episode of the show, and that’s complimentary free instant access to my video course. You will find this eCourse at no cost instead of $197 everyone pays at

That does it. I hope our paths cross again next for the show dedicated to making an ethical influence within your reach so that you can achieve and even exceed your sales potential. Sales can be fun if you follow what you learned here at All Selling Aside.

Do whatever it takes to join me next because our topic is one of my favorites, it comes from one of my mentors, one of my colleagues, mastermind partner. I created a mastermind with him years ago, his name is Harvey Mackay. The title to that episode is Win More Clients by Being #2. It’s how to win more clients by being number two, not number one.

I encourage you to invite a friend for that one and also to read to some of the other episodes that are here, they are free. This is many years of sales and marketing know-how from my brain and heart, my hands to your ears and hopefully for you to apply and it’s delivered week after week. Invite a friend, bring a study buddy, it’s more fun to learn with someone else and I can’t wait to connect with you then because it will be super fun.

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