Prioritization: Let’s Be Realistic Here

Have you ever felt like your brain is whizzing along in a car going 95 mph down the freeway, and you’re on a tricycle pedaling as fast as you can to keep up with it? Or you’re racing around in the morning and something vital that you have to do pops into your head and you foolishly think, “I’ll remember that later,” and then later you don’t even remember thinking that you’d remember it later…it’s like it never happened. Blackhole territory.

These are the days when prioritization is going to be most important. Prioritization is not a well-liked word. It brings to mind images of people in business suits, Venn diagrams, and…frogs if you’re me, but we will get to that in a moment. Prioritizing doesn’t have to be some lengthy, painful process that takes more time than it saves. You don’t need a whiteboard, and it’s not necessary to create one of those crazy-popular planners with the washi tape, indexes, and hand-drawn vectors.

As a side note: a planner should not be a hobby. You shouldn’t be stressed out because your planner is not color-coded appropriately, and you haven’t had time to do your goal tracking today. At some point, it’s not a planner – it’s a sickness.

Anyways, here are a few tips from people who make it their business to tell us how to do our business:

  1. Separate your to-do list by urgency and address those things that are the most urgent first. Stuff with a looming deadline shoot to the top of the list.
  2. If two things have the same level of urgency, do what impacts the most people first. For example, if many other people can’t move on with their part of the project until you get your piece finished up, it’s more important than something that only impacts you or one other person.
  3. If you’re still torn, consider the potential ramifications of not getting something done. Will you lose potential clients? Will your boss purchase a voodoo doll in your honor? Those are pretty big deals. Will you miss a pointless meeting, or will you have to put off answering non-urgent emails for a few hours? Not a big deal.
  4. Be realistic and be ready to reprioritize at the drop of a hat. It would be super-awesome if you could tick off everything on your to-do list by noon and then take the afternoon to have the creative brainstorming session and neaten your desk. Men in Hell want ice water too. Breaking big projects up into small steps will give you a more realistic estimate of how long it will take you to complete.
  5. Eat that frog. The author of Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time tells us that if you do the task that you have been procrastinating first thing, all of the other tasks that you need to do won’t look so bad. Also, if you have two frogs, eat the uglier one first.

Lastly, if you’re not delegating, maybe you should be. If you’re looking for proof, look no further than the survey done by Harris Poll for CareerBuilder – 2,138 hiring managers and HR professionals and 3,022 full-time workers across a wide variety of companies were questioned to determine that:

  • 50% of employees waste time by talking on the cell phone and texting at work
  • 42% waste time by gossiping
  • 39% waste time on the Internet
  • 38% waste time on social media
  • 27% take snack breaks or smoke breaks to waste time

“You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate, delay, or skip the rest.” –Jessica Jackley