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Those who succeed always start with the end in mind—they are totally clear about the final result they are after. They have unleashed the Power of Why; they have a burning desire to achieve their result and it is tied to a specific, clear goal. Creating the action plan is simple when these first two elements are put together.
Learning to prioritize effectively can help you become more efficient, save time, energy and stress. There are a lot of different schools of thought on how to prioritize, and when I went to Tony Robbin’s Unleash the Power Within Event in Dallas, I was introduced to a new system. But since I haven’t finished that one just yet, I’ll share information on what I already know and has worked for TONS of people!
Choose a Time Frame for Your List
Create SHORT TERM GOALS.
These often will be from several different categories, and can be anything from things you need to finish before leaving work, things to do before going home, errands, house work, etc.
Create LONG TERM GOALS.
These would be larger ambitions that need to be broken down in to steps that need to be prioritized. The simple act of breaking it down will simplify and demystify the process.
WRITE IT DOWN – Start With a Master List
Decide what you need to do today/this week/this month [both mundane & critical] that need to be accomplished. DO NOT RANK at this point. (Include routine duties)
Be sure to include deadlines – especially if they are important, need to get done, but don’t NEED to get done TODAY.
NEVER rely on your memory! Leave that brain space for other more important things. When you write down your list on paper or keep it digitally:
You prevent good ideas and intentions from floating away
The act of writing reduces the emotion and enhances the rational – it forces you to ask yourself what’s really important
BREAK IT DOWN
When you know what you want & need to do, you’ll notice you’ll have 3 types of tasks:
Some are more important than others, and that’s why you need to prioritize, because sometimes something that seems urgent isn’t really important, and some things that are important don’t seem urgent. (I’ll talk more on this tomorrow.) If you don’t have it set out you can get confused as to what needs to get done first, and then can run out of time to get done what’s important.
These are where DEADLINES are most important. They will allow you to have a set out plan on completion as well as allow you to take steps instead of trying to do it all at once.
Focus on finishing one project before starting the next.
RANK IMPORTANCE OF TASKS
Determine Top Priority A-Level Tasks
These tasks are ones that will lead to dire consequences if not done immediately or today. Focusing on consequences creates an urgency factor. Ask yourself – what will happen if I don’t do this?
Categorize the Rest of the Tasks
Here’s an example of categories:
B-Level: activities with mildly negative consequence if not completed today
C-Level: activities with no penalty if not completed today
D-Level: DELEGATE! Actions someone else can do
E-Level: tasks that can be eliminated
Rank the URGENCY of Tasks Within Each Category
What needs to be done soonest? Which ones need to be done by end of day? What tasks might be able to be done a little later?
If you have multiple tasks within each category, you need to ensure that they are ranked in the order that needs to get done. Obviously, A items will be at the top, but within that category you need to figure out what is most important.
Keep in mind Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog mentality – whatever you dread the most, whatever might take the most time? Do it FIRST! That way you’re not stressing about it all day, dreading it all day, etc. You do it and it’s done!
It’s important to consider length of time to accomplish each task. You may want to consider assigning a set time to certain things. E.g.: Exercise may be a high priority to do daily, but you might have a crazy amount of things to do. So you can put a cap of 30 minutes and find somewhere to fit it in.
For the D-Level category items, consider the 85/10/5 rule — you tend to invest 85% of your time doing tasks others can do, 10% of your time to actions some people can handle, and just 5% of your energy to tasks only YOU can do! Hone in on the critical 5% and recognize the remaining tasks that are easiest to delegate.
Rank Effort Needed For Each Task
It might be critical to get something to the post office by end of day, but isn’t difficult.
Attack the List
- Do one thing at a time and see it through to completion. Look to combine like doing laundry while studying.
- Cross tasks off as you complete them.
- Reward yourself for each little accomplishment! Doesn’t need to be huge, but your body and mind need to know that what you’re doing is something that’s good – that’s worth the effort you’re putting in. It could be patting yourself on the back, looking in the mirror and saying “I friggin’ rock for accomplishing that task!” and smiling … whatever the case, REWARD YOURSELF!
Repeat the Process DAILY!
Some of the B’s may move up, some of the C’s may leapfrog the B’s and move to the A’s. Be flexible, but be sure that you keep the end in mind.
Keep the List Visible
This is especially true for long term lists, as it will be a reminder for what you need to finish and you can actively cross out or check off the items as you complete them.
Dummies version: How to Manage Time by Prioritizing