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Make that appointment? Check! Go grocery shopping? Check! Order that item off Amazon? Check! I am crossing items off my to do list and it feels great.
But as the end of the day draws near, I look over my list again and realize I have some deadlines fast approaching. Why wasn’t I working on those tasks first? They were on my list so I had every intention of doing them.
It’s true, I like to begin with easy tasks and get them off my list quickly. I mean, who doesn’t like to see their to do list get shorter rather fast?
But this method only puts me farther behind.
Sometimes I like to just start at the top of whatever is on my list and work my way down. Even though that could mean I don’t get some more important things done, I can be so overwhelmed by my list that I don’t even know where else to start.
The truth is that I cannot – we cannot – waste time and energy on tasks that are just not as important as others in that moment.
If we don’t prioritize our to do lists, they actually take away from our productivity because we are focusing on the wrong things.
To finish our day knowing we weren’t just busy but that we actually made progress and got the most important, time-pressed tasks done isn’t difficult to do! We just need to prioritize, which means we take control of our to do lists. We tell which tasks to go where and which ones to wait. We determine what is most important to tackle first or what time of day we should attack it (more on that to come). We don’t let our to do lists have control over us but rather we put the control back in our hands. Ownership is powerful!
If you struggle to prioritize, know you are not alone. This is a skill that doesn’t come easy for everyone. It takes practice and discipline and effort everyday.
Although there are many, many ways to prioritize, the following four steps helped me to get better. Read them. Try them out. Make tweaks that fit you better. You need to do what works best for you. And then see your productivity soar!
1. Make a List
Make a list of everything you need to get done. Clean? Shop? Make an appointment? Is there a phone call you’ve been needing to make? Write it down even if it seems insignificant.
If you already have a to do list started – good for you! Take a look at your list and determine if there is anything you need to add or remove.
2. Identify Deadlines
If there are deadlines, write down the date of the deadline. For example, if you need to plan dinner for the following week, write down the day you must have your meals planned by to grocery shop. If you need to pay a bill, write down the payment due date. Just make sure to put down specific, attainable deadlines.
With the deadlines in mind, order your list by most important first. Only you know what is most important, so use your best judgment to do this. Don’t be too worried about getting it right the first time. It is perfectly ok if you change your mind later and move things around! This is the actual step of you prioritizing your list.
Once you have your list prioritized, you can get a visual feel for what you need to do that day and where to begin. If you put your most important task at the top of your list, then you can begin at the top and work your way down.
This is the time of day when you want to start knocking things off your list. For me, this is in the morning. I know I need to start working at my list right away, before I lose focus later in the day. For you it may be the afternoon or evening. Figure out that time when you will be most focused so you can be most productive.
Gone are the days of our to do lists having their way. We must take back control. Although this can be a little challenging at first, prioritizing is a skill that gets easier with practice and time. So don’t wait. Get started today.
If you have different steps you take to prioritize, please share!
And if you enjoyed this post, please share with others 🙂