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How to Prioritize When There's Always More To Do

https://blog.doist.com/how-to-prioritize/

blog.doist.com

How to Prioritize When There's Always More To Do
Learn how to prioritize the most important parts of work and life with tactical advice on putting high-impact tasks first.

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Accepting that you can't do everything

Accepting that you can't do everything

The antidote to chronic overwhelm is accepting that you cannot do it all.

Prioritizing means embracing the limits of your time and your energy, and taking back control of your to-do list. Embrace tactical strategies to ensure your priorities rise to the top amid the busyness of life.

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Things worth prioritizing in life

There are some general areas that all of us should prioritize in order to function well and generally make life worthwhile. These areas are:

  • Health and fitness. Bad health and fitness habits add up over time and have a knock-on effect in other areas of our lives.
  • Sleep and rest. Inadequate sleep leads to unstable emotions, impaired learning, imbalanced hormones and a compromised cardiovascular system.
  • Friends, family, and relationships. It's hard to mend relationships once they've been frayed. Be proactive about being the connector and decide beforehand what you won't miss out on.
  • Productive work. Instead of working harder, we should work smarter (more strategically.)

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Things to deprioritize

Intentionally take your focus away from distracting areas in your life.

  • Social media and entertainment. While they can add fun to our days, it's worth reducing how much time we spend on apps.
  • Busy work. These are tasks we do regularly but that fail to move us forward. These tasks should be delegated, automated, limited, or deleted.
  • Negativity. When we focus on the negative, we are prevented from seeing reality clearly. It is then important to be aware of your inner thoughts. Maintain a running record of positive things people say about you.

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Capturing tasks and preventing distraction

  • Make a habit of gathering all your to-dos in one place - from email, personal tasks like cooking meals, to new ideas for projects. Capture your tasks in a productivity system and add a date when you need to do it.
  • Stay focused by eliminating distractions. Use an app blocker to reduce social media and entertainment when you need to get things done.
  • Don't fall for shiny object syndrome. When boredom creeps into our routine, it's easy to get distracted with something new.

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Understanding importance over urgency

Understanding importance over urgency

The Eisenhower Matrix system forces us to prioritize important tasks over urgent tasks.

Put your tasks in one of four separate categories:

  • Urgent and Important tasks/projects to be completed immediately.
  • Not Urgent & Important tasks/projects to be scheduled on your calendar.
  • Urgent & Unimportant tasks/projects to be delegated to someone else.
  • Not Urgent & Unimportant tasks/projects to be deleted.

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Manage your energy, not your time

Instead of watching the clock, energy management can be used instead of time management. Our positive mood is high in the morning, dips in the afternoon, and rises again in the evening. We can use this information to our advantage and plan for our high-priority work when our mood is high and do low-priority work during our low mood hours.

Not everyone is the same, so it's worth figuring out when you're most productive and schedule your tasks accordingly.

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The Commitment Inventory

The Commitment Inventory productivity method makes us take stock of all our commitments and forces us to take a look at them.

  • Create an exhaustive list of everything you spend time on.
  • Consolidate into categories and assign a percentage to each.
  • Trim your list of commitments, ensuring each category has enough time to do it well.
  • Organize your to-do list around your categories.
  • Break big tasks down into checklists.
  • Work in timed "bursts" aligned with your categories.

Ensure your priorities are reflected in your categories.

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Put your most important task first

  • Identify your hardest, most important task for the day.
  • Do your most important task first thing in the morning. Don't put it off for later.

This productivity system is known as Eat the Frog. Using this method will enable you to prioritize the important every day and build momentum for the hours ahead.

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Account for your hours: The Time Blocking method

The Time Blocking productivity method compels you to plan your day hour by hour, and prevent multitasking by batching similar tasks together.

  • Make a to-do list for the day.
  • Categorize hour tasks together in similar blocks.
  • Estimate how long each block of tasks will take.
  • Add each block to your schedule sequentially with a time attached.
  • Complete each block of tasks from morning to evening in order.
  • Modify or postpone blocks of time when needed.

Ensure that at least one of your blocks of time is related to your most important tasks/projects.

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Eliminate non-priority tasks

Warren Buffett's "2 List" Strategy focuses on getting rid of the tasks holding you back from your real priorities.

  • Write down 25 things you want to accomplish.
  • Select your top 5 priorities from this list.
  • Cross out the remaining 20 items and actively avoid thinking about them.
  • Focus only on your top 5 priorities.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Learning how to prioritize...

...means getting more out of the limited time you have each day. It’s one of the cornerstones of productivity and once you know how to properly prioritize, it can help with everything fro...

Master lists

Capture everything on a Master List and then break it down by monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

  1. Start by making a master list—a document, app, or piece of paper where every current and future task will be stored. 
  2. Once you have all your tasks together, break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals.
  3. When setting your priorities, try not to get too “task oriented” - you want to make sure you’re prioritizing the more effective work.

Eisenhower Matrix

The matrix is a simple four-quadrant box that answers that helps you separate “urgent” tasks from “important” ones:

  • Urgent and Important: Do these tasks as soon as possible
  • Important, but not urgent: Decide when you’ll do these and schedule it
  • Urgent, but not important: Delegate these tasks to someone else
  • Neither urgent nor important: Drop these from your schedule as soon as possible.

5 more ideas

Personal Operations Category

  • Task management. This one is most commonly taught and includes systems like Getting Things Done.
  • Knowledge management. This is embodied in systems like productivity educa...

What's on your plate

Prioritizing tasks at work involves getting all your tasks and commitments in one place.  Take a piece of paper and make a list of everything you need to get done. Questions to help you:

  • Do you have commitments to others like your boss, partner, kids, or clients?
  • Do you have anything you need to submit? 
  • Do you have any financial tasks that need to get done? 
  • Do you have any planning that needs to get done? 
  • Do you have any administrative tasks? Legal, insurance, staffing, or training?
  • Do you have any professional development tasks that need to get done? Training, areas to research, skills to develop, books to read or study, or classes to take?

Brainstorm your goals

Find your goals. Without them, it is impossible to prioritize your tasks. Try to set 90-day goals, which is long enough to make meaningful progress. Questions to prompt goals:

  • What’s the one thing you could do that makes everything else easier or unnecessary?
  • If you were giving advice to someone else in your position, what 1-3 things would you tell them to focus on?
  • What do you want to have accomplished over the next five years?

Perfectionism and to-do lists

To-do lists can help perfectionists move past our paralysis. They may find making a list to be a reassuring guide to their day.

But there's also a risk: to-do lists can backfire i...

Break down projects

 ... into manageable tasks. 

This way, you're armed with a set of concrete actions to take rather a vague cloud of high expectations.

Define the next action

... rather than all subsequent steps.

Focusing only on the next action gives you permission to work on something even if you don’t have it all figured out—which is crucial to completing tasks that in the past have left you paralyzed.