All too often I’m having conversations with people who have a difficult time prioritizing their day. The challenge is real.
It’s hard to do what matters when you have to wade through a sea of non-urgent items. “I’ll get to that in a minute,” you say.
Then a few hours or even days go by and you still haven’t even started yet. If enough time lapses by, that great idea or urgent matter seems to slink away. Until it blows up in your face. Ouch.
So how can a busy person learn to prioritize? Here are some tips you can use right now.
The hardest part of doing anything is starting. One of the reasons we never “get around to it” is that in our brains, we know that the task will take three or four hours. Foolishly, you wait around until you have three or four hours to start the project.
Better, is to carve out ten or fifteen minutes. Don’t worry about finishing it. Take that small amount of time and create an outline. Or organize what you need. Make a checklist.
If you were to chunk up the project into small sections how many chunks can you break it down into? Five? Thirteen?
Whatever the number is, that is what you schedule. This is how you prioritize the work getting handled.
Put It On A Calendar
Next, take those chunks and add them to your calendar. When is the best time to work on them without interruption? Early in the morning? Right after lunch? 10:00 at night?
Schedule these chunks for about 30 minutes. An hour at the most. If you use an online calendar, (I like Google the best), color code the project so it is easy to see.
It is important that you pick the time that fits the project best and that you can commit to it. Remember, it is a priority!
You Gotta Show Up
As they say, “Actions Reveal Priorities.” So when you book your time to work on the project, you have to show up. Remember, it is only for thirty minutes or an hour.
Roll up your sleeves and dig in. Work as much as you can.
Near the end of the scheduled time, try to make it easy to start on the next slot by jotting down an idea or two, or making a note of what you need to be prepared.
Don’t Forget to Delegate
Remember, you don’t have to do everything. Let’s say that your project has thirteen chunks that you need to work on. Can someone else to four or five of them?
Well, look at that! It just got easier to complete!
If your team can’t handle those tasks, it is ok to bring someone in. Also, there could be some software that you can use too, depending on the task that you need to be completed.
If You Can, Use A Template
I’m a big fan of using templates. Why start from scratch if you can start at the midpoint instead?
When you are doing repetitive tasks or something that probably has been handled before, often there is a template that you can use. Possibly part of your research early on is finding one.
Time Is A Commodity Like Money
Some people spend their time on things that don’t matter. When pressed as to why they didn’t get something handled or on time, their response sometimes might be, “Hey, we ran out of time!”
But they didn’t run out of time. The problem is that they didn’t prioritize the time that they had. So, they spent their time like a drunken sailor.
If the project mattered, it would have jumped to the top of things to do.
Clarify How You Spend Time
Dwight Eisenhower once said, “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”
So, what is eating your time?
Here are the top three things that FEEL urgent, but seldom are:
- Answering emails immediately.
- Answering phone calls immediately.
- Responding to interruptions immediately.
Think about how you handle those three things in your life. How much more important priority work could you accomplish in a day if you could avoid those three things?
What you want is to be more effective with your time. This is purposeful intent on spending your time on the highest value.
As you move through your day, keep asking yourself, “Is what I’m working on the best use of my time?”
That is how you prioritize.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey
“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.” – Mark Twain
“Trust, but verify.” – Ronald Reagan
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