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05 Dec

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. 

Do this

  1. Take out your com­plete list of all the things you have to do (mean­ing, you one and only to-do-list)

  2. Des­e­lect the tasks which 
    • Are not due today
    • Do not imme­di­ate­ly lead to the attain­ment of your goals

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. Do the tasks with the high­est priority.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.