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Ever feel like you are scrambling all the time? Or that you never have time to start the big projects because all these little tasks get in the way? I’ve talked about the importance of prioritizing to ensure you put your focus where it is most meaningful. The question that came back to me was, “Ok Shellye, what is the best way to prioritize?”
First of all, this is something you can’t delegate. You are the only one who knows what is important across the spectrum of your life. Personally, I’ve found that I prioritize better when I focus on prioritizing all of my tasks together, vs separate: work tasks, career tasks, personal tasks, family tasks, church tasks, etc…. I’ve always tried to integrate my life and that applies here too. But that may not work for everyone.
Broadly, set your goals over a time span. I usually set long-term goals and then create a plan to support the goals. I then break the plan into steps or tasks. Now don’t overthink this. Some tasks are just tasks, submit the weekly progress report, return a call, pick up the dry cleaning, etc... When I was CEO, I used a quarterly horizon since MetricStream’s cadence was driven by quarterly objectives. Frankly, I still think this way. But use what works for you.
List out what needs to be accomplished, breaking it down by month and week. Then work to optimize your list each week, adding in the tactical tasks. Sort your list based on importance and urgency, so those items that have to get done are at the top and those that would be helpful to get done, but not critical, are at the bottom. Based on that framework, I’d set my calendar and my daily list of to-dos, in the same way.
If you are unclear of the priority/urgency get it clarified, communicate early and often, don’t guess. Getting priorities wrong at work or at home can really set you back. While I find most people clarify and communicate well at work, they don’t at home. For example, you kill yourself to attend two of your daughter’s team’s basketball games, but that means you now will miss the debate team dinner. Turns out she would have preferred it the other way around if you just asked.
I find that prioritizing isn’t the hard part. The hard part is being disciplined enough to execute the plan you’ve put in place and sure that the right-hand knows what the left hand is doing. Keep your list visible or someplace that you refer to often. I used to use a notebook. But now I keep track on my phone since I always have it with me. Make looking at your list the first thing you do in the morning before you check email. Make adjustments and then start your day.
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