In the world where anyone and anything can steal our focus, and where our attention span is being reduced to 8 seconds or less, not prioritizing seems like a productivity suicide.
To tackle the daily stressors and overwhelm which comes with it, you need to prioritise the tasks, projects, commitments, obligations, expectations and so on. After all there is not enough time in the day to attend to all that needs to get done.
Of course, the well-known strategy to cope with stress and overwhelm is to set priorities for the day. I’m a big advocate on setting priorities because I’ve witnessed many times, how simple techniques like this can make a huge difference in life.
Prioritising not only helps with completing our daily tasks, but it plays a role in managing decision fatigue. If we spent less time on choosing what to do next, we will deliver better results, quicker.
But just setting priorities for the day is not enough to be productive. Sure, they can get us moving, but they may not get us to make meaningful progress. That’s why we should implement those 3 tips while setting priorities right.
1. Your daily goals need to be a part of a bigger picture
Our days can be dynamic.
This means that what we prioritised at the morning, may no longer be a priority by the afternoon. There may be an unexpected change in your situation, unscheduled meeting which cannot be rescheduled, or your mental energy may not be at top level. That’s why your daily goals need to be align with your weekly goals.
Weekly goals are more ‘forgiving’ because you’re not constrained with a short timeframe. You can adjust easier, and be more flexible with execution, which may help with taking the stress out if Monday got away from under you.
But your daily goals still need to be part of your bigger, weekly, picture.
2. Set no more than 3 goals for the day
3 is a good number. And picking no more than 3 priorities for a day is a sensible strategy.
However, your daily goals of 3, should be ranged from a goal which needs to be completed 100%, then your second goal which needs to be completed 75% and your third goal which needs to be completed at least 50%.
Thanks to assigning a completion rate you know where to focus, and when you need to shift to move onto the next goal.
All priorities are important (after all these are priorities!), but not all of them are equal.
3. Pick a task which will move you forward
I’d like to invite you to reassess if the priority you set is yet another task, commitment or a chore which needs to be done, or is it something which will actually move you forward? Just setting goals for the sake of creating a hierarchy of what you have on your plate, will get you moving, but not necessary moving in the right direction.
Usually what we do is to select things we want to do, like or feel comfortable with completing. And there is nothing wrong with that, as long as those things move you forward.
The trick here is that you feel like you’re prioritizing because you are picking things to complete, but those may be the wrong things!
If you’re working on a project and you list several activities which you know need to be done for the project, evaluate which ones will push the needle forward. Will re-designing the website yet again and changing the photos move it forward? Or having that difficult conversation with your client about pricing will help you to take the next step?
I used to start my workday with going through my emails and responding to all. I had ‘go through my emails’ as a priority because responding to clients is important. But I found that I spent way too much time on conversations which didn’t help me to progress.
Prioritizing can save you from the overwhelm and burnout. There is simply not enough hours in a day to do it all, so picking what’s important seems like a good decision.
But just picking tasks to do because they’re pilling up is not necessarily something which get you traction.
Recognising the difference between a priority which is just another task to do in disguise and an actual action which will move you forward can be a game changer in your productivity. Basing your selection on importance and picking no more than 3 tasks for the day will take you to the end line quicker.
The size of the priority can vary. Small actions may even work better on some occasions, and they definitely add up to a meaningful progress. But they need to be the right steps after all.