Busyness, multi-tasking, and overtime aren’t impressive. They’re burdens. Burdens that pull you from what really matters in life.
Floundering about wasting time to figure out what you need to do instead of being productive. In my journey to simplify my life, I’ve found that I can do less, have less, and slow down, but if I don’t prioritize, it can be all for nothing. I can put in great effort to simplify my life, but it won’t stay that way unless I keep my priorities in order.
I need to know my priorities and how important they are to me. As soon as I forget what is important to me, too many other things start to sneak in and take my time, money, space, and mind.
It’s time to declutter your to-do list and get the work done. Here’s a list of 7 practical ideas on how to prioritize tasks in your life and get what you need to get done, done. Prioritization strategies will maximize your time and set you up for success.
1. List Your Priorities.
You need to know your priorities and how important they are to you.
Ask yourself, what matters most to you? What will you regret not doing in your lifetime? What do you wish you had more time for?
If you can, try to rank your priorities. If you have some ties, that’s okay! Don’t overthink this…you will use this list to plan your time and energy. Sometimes it’s nice to have a list to refer back to when planning your day, week, summer, year, etc.
I try to make time for three things daily: time with God, time with family and friends, and time with myself. I know that if I make sure these three things happen, I will have a good chance of feeling fulfilled at the end of the day.
These three things look different every day, however. Sometimes I spend time praying alone; sometimes, I simply try to include God in my daily activities. Sometimes I spend time with a friend, but sometimes I simply text them to check in with them.
Other times I spend the entire day hanging out with my kids and husband, and still, other times, I take some time to read to the kids before bed. When I plan time with myself, sometimes I read for 30 minutes and take advantage of an afternoon kid-free to do some shopping or writing.
2. Plan When You Will Devote Time and Energy to Your Priorities.
Next, actually, plan your priorities. Make time for your top priorities first, or it will be your non-priorities that dictate your time.
If you are a planner like me, use a day planner to plan your time. Write down when you will devote time to your priorities first, then fill in the spare time with other things. If you are not a planner, try thinking of the day or week ahead and decide when to set aside time for your priorities.
When planning my priorities, I block off time on my day planner. I might devote 1 hour in the morning to Bible study and prayer.
I have been known to block off an entire afternoon to do whatever my youngest wants while her sibling is at school. And I plan when I can get some alone time reading, writing, or watching a favorite show.
3. Make Sure Your Priorities Are What Gets Done.
Finally, plan time for what matters to you, and get to everything else if you get it. You don’t necessarily need to spend most of your time on your priorities, but you will want to ensure that adequate time is devoted to these things.
If you don’t get to things that are not on your list of priorities, you don’t need to feel guilty. As long as you make time for your priorities, it will feel like a productive and enjoyable day!
I’ve learned not to feel bad if I don’t finish the laundry, clean the bathrooms, or mow the lawn. When I cannot get to things that are not my top priority, I know it’s because I spent quality time with God and the people I love. And that’s good enough for me.
4. Tackle the “Must Do” Items First
We all have things to do, and that’s the best place to start. You don’t have a choice.
Give yourself permission to work on these tasks with your undivided attention. Forget everything else. You’ll be more productive and complete it quicker than trying to multi-task and do everything.
5. Work on the Easiest Tasks First
The easiest tasks are typically the quickest to get done. They offer quick wins to get something off your to-do list. The power you feel from the success of completing a task will propel you to keep going and get something else done.
So go ahead and tackle these tasks first. Just don’t forget to go back and try the harder ones too.
6. Stop Multi-tasking
You can’t do everything, and there’s no such thing as multitasking. Your brain can only do one thing well at a time. Once you shift to do something else, you are no longer focused on doing the other task. It’s not possible. The constant bouncing between tasks accomplishes very little at the end of the day.
Instead, try putting activities into their own block of time or using a prodromal timer. You’ll save time by focusing on one task at a time and getting rid of the mind-set that you can multi-task.
7. Be Realistic
Honest, realistic time management is essential to prioritizing tasks. It won’t ever get done if you don’t devote enough time to an activity.
Ask yourself if you’re estimating the proper amount of time to get tasks done? Is your plan feasible?
You may find it helpful to keep a log of how long it takes to complete specific tasks. Sometimes we think it takes more or less time than it actually does.
Right now, your schedule and to-do list look scattered and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Prioritizing tasks is key to finding peace and getting things done. Your ability to prioritize tasks is the gateway to focusing and getting more done.
Your list of “must-do” items is likely much shorter than you think. You can schedule a time to do everything else. Be sure to stick to the schedule you create and reap the benefits.
Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.