Welp, here we are in August and once September arrives it seems like our to-do lists start to explode with all the things we want to get done before the end of the year. It’s hard to know what to do first.

And so before we get overwhelmed and stressed out, I wanted to talk about how to get things done when you’re just not sure what to do first, second, third and so on. This is where priorities come into play.

According to Brian Tracy 85% of Americans say they don’t know how to prioritize and that by knowing how to prioritize tasks, you can increase your productivity and output by 25% or more.

The key to prioritizing is knowing the difference between what’s Urgent and what’s Important.

When we jot things down on our to-do lists we tend to give all of the tasks equal importance… it all needs to get done. But not so fast…

The Important things will give you the greatest return on your time invested. A while back I talked about doing the right work, these are the Important to-dos that will bring you closer to your goal.

On the other hand, there are lots of Urgent things that need to get done too. And sometimes these Urgent to-dos need to be done before the Important to-dos.

Trying to figure out the Important versus the Urgent is where a lot of us get stuck and then feel overwhelmed. But I’ve got you covered.

Here are the four steps to figuring out what to do first:

Step #1: Identify your Important to-dos by getting clear on your goals and the steps you’ll need to take to accomplish those goals.

Step #2: Go through your to-do list and next to each to-do, note what’s Important and what’s Urgent. (Tip! Use “I” and “U” next to each to-do to designate.)

Step #3: Pick five to-do’s from your to-do list; they should be a combination of both Important and Urgent.

Step #4: Rank your five to-dos in order of how you will accomplish them. (Tip! Work on your hardest to-do first when you have the most energy and brain power.)

How are you feeling about things now?

This exercise will take a little focus and strategic thinking—but that’s always a good thing when you’re considering how your spending your most precious resource, which is time.

I know prioritizing can feel tricky. Questions? Feeling stuck? Let me know in the comments or respond to this email—I’ve got you covered. 

Mimi Bishop is a productivity + time-management consultant. Go to www.mimibishop.com for ways to take back your time.