A big part of prioritization is proactively making decisions about what’s important and should be paid attention to, as well as what is unimportant and should be avoided.
It’s knowing the highest and best use of your time, and working to spend as much time as possible on those activities. It’s paying attention to the things that matter most.
The opposite is looking at every push notification and responding to emails as they arrive in your inbox. It’s giving your attention over to the immediate.
Because life is getting faster by the day, strengthening your ability to prioritize and to manage your time has never been more important. It’s a topic I spend a fair amount of time thinking about.
I’m go to share my thoughts on 7 prioritization tips that can help you, here’s what we’ll cover:
- First things first
- Be a good steward of your attention
- Chunk your time
- Batch your work
- Create and maintain lists
- Check-in throughout the day
- Develop your standard operating procedure
Let’s get started.
First things first
What’s the highest and best use of your time?
This is the fundamental question to answer. If you don’t know what you should be doing (and not doing) then it’s impossible to prioritize. In order to practice prioritization, you need to know what your priorities are.
Spend the time to write down all the activities you do on a daily basis. All the things you’re doing to meet your obligations and responsibilities, both personally and professionally.
Once you’ve made your list (which I imagine is lengthy), start to rank them in order of most important to least important. This will help you to determine the most important activities and therefore, the things you should be spending your time and attention on.
Be a good steward of your attention
We’ve all heard the phrase “You can’t control what happens to you, only how you respond,” and that’s true for the most part. But you can position yourself for success by limiting the ability of outside stimulus to affect you.
Stop checking your phone in between tasks. Stop instinctively checking email or social media. It’ll be there when it’s time, and that action is far more detrimental than you think.
You can’t casually check email and then move on, it doesn’t work that way. It sticks with you in your subconscious mind. So, even though you think you can pop into your email and then simply get back to what you ‘re doing, you can’t.
Whatever was in the email you read stays with you.
We only have so much headspace, and when a large amount of things are competing for it, our ability to focus and get work done is limited.
You need to be a good steward of what you’re letting in. Break the bad habit of checking your phone and other things in between tasks.
Chunk your time
There’s immense wisdom in chunking, or blocking, your time. It’s a simple but powerful tool for doing focused work.
Going back to your initial list of daily activities, wherever possible, set time for all your essential activities that are a part of your day.
For example, you could have chunks for personal time, family time, email management, social media, personal development, exercise, etc. Putting these chunks into your calendar helps you to protect and honor the time you’ve prioritized for these activities.
Batch your work
Deep and focused work is the best work. When you can get into a groove when you’re doing the same activity for an extended period of time, you get a lot more done. It’s essentially the opposite of multi-tasking.
While there’s not a right way to batch work, it makes sense to schedule an extended period of time once a day or once a week, versus doing an the same activity in short bursts sporadically through the week or month.
For example, if podcasting is a part of your life, is it possible to block three hours on one day to record a handful of episodes, versus spending 30 minutes six days in a row?
There is always a transition time when moving from one activity to another. Batching works to eliminate the time wasted in that transition.
Create and maintain lists
Perhaps the oldest and best form of prioritization is the list. When something’s at the top of a list, we all know it to be of great importance.
There’s no secret to list building, but there are a lot of strategies and methods for keeping them.
I’m partial to keeping lists on a notepad, and others prefer a digital format. Whatever method you prefer, a list helps you stay organized.
Check-in throughout the day
The more proactive we can be, the better. I think about and check in on my day early in the morning, halfway through the day, and at the end of the day.
In the morning, I get clear on what my priorities are, what meetings I have, and I update my list of things to be done for the day.
At midday, I look back over what’s been accomplished, and ahead at what still remains to be done.
At the end of the day, I review everything and look to the following day to get a sense of what tomorrow’s priorities will be.
This three-part check-in helps me to stay organized and efficient.
Develop your standard operating procedure
A standard operating procedure is a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help their people get what needs to get done, completed.
If it’s for an organization, why would an individual have one?
If you have a simple, straightforward and uncomplicated life, you probably don’t need one. Odds are, you have a complex life with a lot of moving parts. The more you can systematize and put structure around the things that need to get done, the better.
When it comes to prioritization, I’ve already talked about how complex life can be. Keeping on top of everything that needs to happen on a monthly basis is important.
- Checklists. One day, perhaps many of the things you need to be successful will be second nature. Until that day, make a checklist for everything that needs doing.
- Calendar. What gets scheduled, gets done. If you don’t put all of your important activities into your calendar, they’ll get bumped by some other “emergency.”
- Automate. The more we can take our hands off the wheel, the better.
- Delegate. If there’s an area you lack in, find someone or something that can support you.
The main thing is keeping the main thing, the main thing. Knowing the highest and best use of your time allows you to treat your most important activities accordingly, and to defer or delegate the less important activities.
Becoming better at prioritization will help you get better in every other aspect of your life. It will help you do a better job of serving the people you’re wishing to serve, and everyone will benefit from it.
Good luck on your time management and prioritization journey, let us know how we can better support you!
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