What’s First? Identifying Your Daily Priorities for Maximum Efficiency
You’ve got a list of things to do today that’s just a disorganized jumble. All of the things on it seem equally important. But, you never know what’s going to happen today and what if you don’t get through all of them?
The solution is to prioritize your list. Put the most important things at the top and start there, working your way down. If you don’t get to the least important tasks at the bottom, it’s alright; you can do them tomorrow.
Evaluate Your Tasks
How do you decide what’s most important? It’s tougher than most people realize. For each item, ask yourself:
• How does it benefit you?
• How does it get you closer to your goal?
• How does it help you build relationships?
• Who is relying on you to get it done?
• How much money does it make you directly or indirectly?
Asking yourself these questions helps to reveal which tasks should be near the top and which can be saved for later. The more clear benefits a task has, the higher it should be on your priority list.
The Basics of Prioritizing
There’s a simple way to prioritize realistically and effectively. Ask yourself, ‘If I only get one thing done today and the rest of the day is a total wash, which one thing should it be?’ Once you choose the one task, move on to the next. If you only get two things done today, what should they be? Continue in this way until your list is nicely prioritized.
An easier but less precise way to prioritize a list is to create categories. Your categories might be something like:
• Must get done today or it’s all over!
• Really should get done today
• Ought to be done today
• Would help if done today
• Doesn’t need to be done today
The wording is up to you. You may also choose to create 3 levels with Level One being most urgent. This way of ranking is easier and more flexible; after all, you’ll get more than one thing done today.
When you get to the end of the day and there are still a few low-priority tasks to complete, let them go but decide exactly when you’ll do them. Choose a day to add them to.
To Do List or Done List?
Most of us create ‘to do’ lists. A to-do list is simply your prioritized list of today’s tasks. As you complete each one, you cross them off. Another method is to create a ‘done’ list. Instead of focusing on the things you still have to do today, focus on what you’ve finished. Write down each task as you finish it. This has the powerful psychological effect of showing you everything you’ve gotten done.
You can use a standard daily to-do list with tasks that need to be done each day, but keep it flexible. Your priorities may change from day to day, and even within a day. Your daily priority list gives you a great roadmap to follow so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and don’t have to think (you just do them), but don’t be afraid to change course if it seems appropriate to do so. You can apply the same methods outlined here for prioritizing weekly, monthly, yearly and long-term tasks and goals as well.