The Art of Prioritising
Have you ever started a project with the best of intentions but failed to sustain it because you’ve taken on way too much? We’ve all been there.
Instead of being hard on yourself for not seeing it through next time, make it more likely that you’ll succeed and manage your stress and energy levels by managing your time. How? Through the art of prioritising!
Be intentional and proactive.
Much of our day is either habitual (things we do out of habit, good and bad) or reactive (how we respond to the forces around us).
By prioritising proactive activities and scheduling them into your calendar, you take control of your own time.
Make sure to allocate time for business development tasks (that can often be sidelined for reactive tasks) and create a focused workflow each day by effectively prioritising.
What is prioritising?
Prioritising is about evaluating all the different activities you fill your time with and putting them in order of importance. Prioritising fewer, targeted tasks and consistently making progress on those can be much more effective than taking on too much at once and failing to do the job well.
Why is it a worthwhile exercise?
1) You can’t do everything at once, so decide what you should be spending time on and which tasks should be deleted, deferred or delegated.
2) If you try to do everything at once for your business, it will undoubtedly cause stress and overwhelm.
3) It is far more productive to consider the options available and make strong decisions about which ones will produce the results you want because they align with your goals.
How to prioritise:
Narrow it down to the activities you can consistently progress in, that you enjoy and can be measured (so you know if they are an effective and good use of your resources – time, money and energy).
Consider, Is it urgent or important? Note, these are not the same thing!
> Urgent = requires your immediate attention – usually connected to someone else’s needs or deadlines, i.e. the driver is external. Ask yourself if it is urgent – and you need to drop everything to do it – or can it be rescheduled to another mutually beneficial time?
> Important = a priority motivated by you and is connected to your business development or bigger personal goals. Realising your future vision is dependent on these important tasks.
So how do you accommodate both types of tasks without feeling stressed? First, decide which of the following categories your task falls into, so that you can decide what action to take). Do this with all your tasks routinely.
Important AND urgent: a task that tends to crop up either because you left it close to a deadline or it was truly unexpected. To mitigate these, schedule in time blocks you can play around with, should something present itself without warning. For more on this listen to episode 19 of the Productivity for Profit Podcast : ‘When Your Well Laid Plans Get Interrupted’.
Urgent but not important: generally incoming from outside your business. Should this override your current priorities, or can you manage it through delegating or scheduling? If this happens a lot, try to manage your customers’ expectations from the beginning of the relationship.
Important but not urgent: tasks that move your goals and aspirations forward. These can often get sidelined when urgent tasks present themselves but if you have a strong vision for your business you can’t afford to let that happen. A clear scheduling technique ensures these business development tasks happen and that you make consistent progress.
Neither important nor urgent: these are in fact, distractions. If you can’t identify a purpose behind these tasks that directly links to your business strategy, life goals, health goals or happiness, it is not worthy of your precious time! If you’re nervous about letting it go, try without it for a week to help you decide if it is worth it. You can always reinstate it later!
When you’re presented with a business opportunity, list the positives and negatives of undertaking the task – does it align with your goals?
Positives could be growing your audience, sharing expertise or generating a new income stream.
Negatives could be sacrificing your work/life balance, damaging relationships or pushing back other priorities. Is it worth it?
To protect them, set boundaries around your priorities. Anything that causes you to think about moving or changing them needs to be carefully considered. Is it actually worthy of affecting everything else? It’s important to determine what is a priority as well as what isn’t.
Do you have a clear vision of your why? How do you want to feel? Everything must link back to these and if it doesn’t, it’s not a priority.
Here’s a simple exercise:
Ask yourself: is everything I’ve done in the last hour linked to my priorities, my purpose and my goals? Keep a checklist and every hour give a tick or a cross to the above question.
It’s not always easy to stay faithful to the strategy, so regularly reflect on the priorities you have set. This reminds you of what is important and whether it is still worth being prioritised, helping you to stay on track and consistently work with your desired results in mind.
If you would like to learn more, listen to the podcast Episode – The Art of Prioritising