How do you start your working day? With a bunch of meetings? A walk to a cafe? Thirty minutes of ploughing through emails?
And how does all of this leave you feeling? If the answer is ‘overwhelmed’, read on.
How you start your day has a major impact on how the rest of your day is going to go. The good news is that there is one easy thing that everyone can do to help them smash their goals out of the park.
It boils down to two words: task prioritisation.
Step 1: Write a master list
Write a list of every task that you need or want to achieve today, this week, this month and this year.
Include everything – personal and work-related. You can add to the list as things come up but it’s a good idea to start with a clear picture of what needs to happen on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis to meet your overarching goals.
Step 2: Figure out what’s important
Should be easy right? But that’s not always the case, especially when ‘squeaky wheels’ are asking for things every five minutes.
There are a number of tried and tested ways to figure out what’s most important.
There’s the Eisenhower Power Matrix where you categorise tasks into four categories:
- Important and Urgent – Do now
- Important but not Urgent – Do later
- Urgent but not Important – Delegate
- Not Important and Not Urgent – Delete
This is fine in a perfect world but doesn’t take into account the human factor of procrastination and repulsion – otherwise known as putting things off because they are hard or unpleasant.
This is where Bryan Tracey’s ‘Eat that frog’ method comes into play. Also known as ‘swallow the toad’, this method suggests that you should do the hardest and/or most unpleasant thing you need to do first thing in the morning.
That way the rest of your day is a downhill run.
Step 3: Prioritise your priorities
Once you’ve completed the steps above, you may still have lots of tasks that fall under each category.
So how can you figure out what to do first when there are three jobs sitting in ‘Urgent and Important’ category? Easy. By numbering them in order of importance. It’s very rare for all tasks to carry the exact same urgency and importance so by thinking this through, you can also account for things like waiting for people to approve things or get back to you with more information.
When it comes to ensuring that you are working towards meaningful goals, Warren Buffett has a way of whittling down tasks based on their impact.
His method suggests that you write down 25 goals and then figure out what the top five most important goals are. Circle those goals. From this point on, you are only allowed to work on tasks that help you achieve your top five goals. He says that you should actively avoid everything else.
Step 4: Use the 80/20 rule to get through the day
Once you’ve got a beautifully prioritised list sitting in front of you, you may realise that it would take a superhuman effort to get through everything in one day (or even decade!).
This is where you can call upon the Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. According to this principle, 80 per cent of your day’s success depends on 20 per cent of the tasks.
By figuring out what tasks need to happen today, you will be able to classify your day as successful or unsuccessful based on realistic targets.
Step 5: Give yourself deadlines
Do you have a group of tasks on your list that keep getting carried over to the next day? It’s been proven that people are much more likely to complete a task if it has a deadline attached to it, even if it’s self-imposed.
Good time management is the difference between feeling capable and in control or feeling totally frazzled and overwhelmed.
Task prioritisation is about focusing your attention on the most important things, and having the knowledge and confidence to set good boundaries. It’s a skill that can be learnt, like any other, and it can reap massive rewards. A time saving of 15 minutes a day over your average working year will save you 60 hours in time – time that you can get back to do things for yourself or with your family and friends.
Download this FREE Prioritising Worksheet to help you reduce the stress in your work week.
If you need help prioritising, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.