Updated: Sep 10, 2020
When every item on your task list feels like an urgent & important task, how do you prioritize?
Having a good daily planner helps keep you focused during the day, but we all have those days when our task list is longer than the days have hours. Every item feels like it needs to get done right now. In those moments, you can easily feel overwhelmed and it's hard to even know where to start.
Here are 6 ways to help you sort out your task list, figure out the important task, and prioritize the rest.
Start with The End in Mind
Close your eyes. I want you to imagine you have lived a very long, happy life. Everyone is there, your parents (I know what you’re thinking, this is make-believe, roll with it) spouse, children, friends, and co-workers. Someone walks up to make a speech in your honor. Who is the first person to speak, and what do they say about you? Then, a second and third person comes up. Who are they and how do they describe their time with you? I want you to write down your answers. This is the foundation for understanding what your top three priorities are.
This is who I envision would speak and what they would say:
My Children – I was a loving, caring mother. I encouraged them to dream, taught them how to work hard, and be a part of a team as well as be kind leaders. No matter what, I gave them a safe place to always come home to.
My Husband – I was a supportive and loving wife. I was strong, calm, and he could always count on me.
Team Members – I was a kind leader. Not only was it fun and exciting to grow a widely successful business together, but I cared about each person individually and supported them on their growth path.
What Are Your Top Three Priorities:
From this exercise, you can come up with what your life priorities are.
I am a loving and supportive mother and empower my children with the courage and tools to have happy, fulfilling lives. I am in a loving relationship with my best friend. I grow many successful businesses and am a caring, compassionate leader.
This exercise will help you get crystal clear on your priorities.
When you understand how you want the world to see you, it allows you to help prioritize your daily tasks.
** Life happens - Laundry needs to be done, the house needs to be cleaned and maintained, the food needs to be bought and prepped. We need to make money; there are endless work emails and calls that need to be returned, deadlines, and projects that need to be completed. Chores are a part of life; the information below is to encourage you to start to make space for your priorities.
Align Priorities with Task List
We say that a person, a hobby, or a business is a priority to us, yet we don't put any time and effort into that priority. I don't care what the priority is. If you don't show up and put in time and effort, then your priority will do one of two things: 1) Maintain or 2) Disappear. That is true for all things, people included. That means no matter how crazy busy your task list is, you need to make time for your priorities. If you find that you can't make time, then you have to ask yourself, is this truly a priority for me?
Make Time for Priorities
We all have 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year. How are some people able to accomplish all these impressive goals? They make them a priority. Every day they get up and make a conscious effort to spend a little bit of time on their priorities. Start to treat time like you would to budget your money. If you spend ten minutes doing this one task, then you lose 10 minutes doing another task. When you move through the day you need to ask yourself, "How does this task align with my priorities and goals? Does this task add value to my life or others? Will this task make me or someone close to me happy?"
Learn to Say NO
You may have heard me say I have a hard time saying no, but it is a tool that I am working on. This year, I have been lucky enough to volunteer in my kids’ classrooms about once or twice a month, and I LOVE it. It fits into my priorities; however, when I asked to be classroom mom, I politely declined. I still feel guilty for saying no, but between the start of two companies and working full-time, there was no way. If I did it, I would not do it with an open heart. Even as I write this, I wonder if there was a way I could make it work. But the answer is still no, and I have to be ok and remember what I did gain, time spent with my children. My #1 priority.
Let Go of Unnecessary Tasks
My son's first birthday party was Pinterest perfect. I spent hours making sure that everything looked amazing. Life started to get busier and busier, and the birthday parties began to cause so much stress and anxiety. I took a step back and asked myself, why is this so important? Here is the internal conversation I had:
Question: What is the purpose of the birthday party?
Answer: To make sure that the birthday person feels special.
Question: What needs to be done to make that happen?
Answer: The answer is different per person. For my oldest, this means 20 kids running around outside, pizza, and a homemade cake. That's it. I send out invites, pick up half a dozen pizzas and my husband makes a custom cake based on what the birthday boy requests. No party favors, no decorations, and guess what? He loves it! For my middle child, he only wants three friends, we talk a lot about a theme, a menu, and he wants to be a part of the planning and prep the day of the party. Last year that meant we had to slow down. He took turns helping my husband make cookies and helping me make the macaroni and cheese. He also requested that we keep the Christmas decorations up until Jan. 20 instead of putting up birthday decorations.
Here is my point, if you are stressed out look at the tasks that you have and understand why you are doing them. If it’s to make someone else happy, check-in with that person. You may find that they would prefer to spend time with you reading a book, playing a game or talking rather than running around stressed out.
Stay Patient and Consistent
I write this post with the utmost love and support for you; I remember feeling so overwhelmed looking for answers on Pinterest and Google. If you happened to find my little space online, I am sending you hugs and love as you are on your journey to being patient. Time management is an amazing tool, one that will allow you to accomplish your goals; it takes practice and time. As you start making time for your priorities, defining your goals, finding what makes you happy, and deleting miscellaneous tasks it will get easier and easier, I promise.
The most important thing to remember is to get started. There is no magic task fairy who will come in the middle of the night. Chose one task, get started until you get to a good stopping point. If your task is big use the 30-minute rule (or the 15-minute, 10 minute, 5-minute rule). Set a timer and just start working. When your timer is done, stop, and tomorrow you set another timer. Keep chipping away at a big task consistently every day and it will get done!
Stay brave, stay curious, and stay focused on your dreams!
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