Prioritizing when we are the most stressed
Datum: 2012-12-05 11:00
When we have little time to play with and many things that need to be done, we need to prioritize.
It might be quite obvious most of the time what we “simply need to get done”, but when things are really hectic and intense it is easy to get paralyzed by the sheer amount of work ahead of us.
In times like these I am glad I have a method to rely on so that I do not have to think so much, but can get on with doing what needs to be done.
Done! has from time to time presented you with various methods on prioritization, and here is another one. Prioritization is such a complex process that saying “this is the ultimate method” is out of the question. Let’s just say that it is simply another way of prioritizing. Perhaps it will suit you just right.
- Take out your complete list of all the things you have to do (meaning, you one and only to-do-list)
- Deselect the tasks which
- Are not due today
- Do not immediately lead to the attainment of your goals
How you actually deselect the tasks you will drop and not prioritize depends on the format of your to-do-list:
- You can uncheck them
- You can chose not to put them on today’s list which you write by hand and that only contains the things you will do today
- You move the tasks forward one day in your calendar
Out of the tasks you have now prioritized (that is, those left on the list), determine which needs to be completed first. The more tasks you chose, the more meaningless it is that you make this distinction in the first place, so be restrictive with how many tasks you chose to do first. Personally I never chose more than five tasks at a time.
- Send them to the top of the list, or
- Tag them with a 1
- Do the tasks with the highest priority.
When the tasks marked with a 1 are completed, go back to the initial list of selected and prioritized tasks and again select 3 – 5 tasks that needs to be done first of those remaining.
It might be the case that as you have been working on the tasks with the highest priority, more tasks have been added to the list, for instance via e‑mails you have received, from a colleague who dropped something off or through a phone-call you received.
- As a task is added onto the list, immediately determine if it needs to be done at once (and is thereby given the highest priority – for instance, if it takes less than two minutes to complete, just do it and be done with it), if it has a high priority and needs to be done today, or if it should be added to the pool of tasks waiting to be completed later.
Schedule those you haven’t prioritized
If you are like most people (and like me), you will have tasks that get neglected and not prioritized for several days in a row. This is completely natural since more urgent tasks show up and interfere.
But, presumably you still want to get these tasks done (assuming they are important in the sense that they help you attain your goals). So when you notice that a particular task gets repeatedly postponed, for instance every day during a whole week, make a habit of scheduling a certain time on a particular day when you will complete this task.
If all else fails
Even if you make the right priorities every day you might still not have time to do all the things on the list even in the long run. So be it.
Either you simply have too much to do, in which case you might have to give certain tasks up (or delegate them to someone else). Allow your goals and ambitions to guide you in which tasks to drop.
Or you could simply do the tasks on your list faster so that you can complete more tasks in the time you have available. In this case, decide to try to think of as many ways as possible in which you can do the tasks that require a lot or attention to detail in a quicker way, during the rest of the week, for instance by using more templates for documents or letters, gathering similar tasks and do them in one go to save your energy, or do something else to make it easier to do tasks faster.
You can also decide to make note of all the occasions during the week when you are put on hold since you have to wait for something or someone. Think about how you can eliminate this waste of valuable time or how you can do something productive out of that time in waiting. More on this in a tip to come.
Make better use of valuable time
If you prioritize in a more systematic and methodical manner, you will with greater accuracy arrive at what the right thing to focus on right now is. You will feel that you are making the best use possible of your valuable time in a more optimal way than before.
What is your method?
If you try this method – how did it work out for you? Is there a certain part of the method you want to tweak so that it fits your particular situation better? Please leave a comment to share your thoughts.