Learning how to properly prioritize is the number one way to boost your productivity tenfold. We all know how to make a “to-do” list, but this isn’t enough. You need to figure out which items are essential and which aren’t important at all.
Start by making a list of everything you have to do today. Don’t worry about priority now; just get everything down.
How many items do you have? If you have more than seven or eight, you need to trim your list. Take out any tasks that you perform every day, like checking email. You can also take out anything that will happen regardless, such as a phone call you’re expecting.
Look at your list and ask yourself, “If I do just one thing today, what should it be?” Put this at the top of your list.
Now, look back at the other items and repeat for the second task. Keep doing this, and eventually you’ll end up with a list of things you have to do in order of importance.
One way to prioritize without getting bogged down in unnecessary tasks is to consider the direct result each task will have on your business. Which will directly or indirectly impact your income and goals? These are your high-impact tasks and should be your highest priority.
Tips for Refining Your To-Do List
We’ve covered the simplest method for arranging daily tasks, but sometimes this isn’t enough. Here are some tips for further refining your list:
Rank Items. Create a scoring and ranking system. For example:
1-Needs to be done today
2-Should be done today
3-Doesn’t need to be done today
Plug your items into these categories, and then prioritize within the category. This is especially helpful if you have many small things to do.
Set Deadlines for Everything. Set a deadline for everything you have to do, even if there really isn’t any time pressure. Make the deadline specific to not only a day, but also a time of day. If one task is “due” in the morning and another in the afternoon, you know the morning task is more important.
Categorize by Work Areas. Some people categorize by work-related or personal tasks. You can then focus on one list at work and the other after work. You could also break it down into smaller areas of work.
Categorize by Time. If you have different tasks to complete in the morning versus the afternoon, you can create categories by time of day, or small to-do lists for each part of the day.
Break Up Big Tasks. For anything that takes longer than a day, break it up into daily milestones and put these into your to-do list.
Remember that the goal is to have a simple system that works for you. Use whichever methods make prioritizing easier for you.
Ideally, you should have three to five tasks on your daily to-do list. You have to break the habit of thinking that you need to do everything. Be ruthless in throwing out tasks that aren’t essential right now.
So, what do you do with the items you put on the “backburner?”
If your backburner tasks can’t be thrown out, then try one or more of the following tactics:
- Choose a day and time when you’ll take care of each of these items.
- Set aside some time during the day when you go over these less important things, such as at the end of a workday when you’re still at your desk or computer.
- Delegate these tasks to someone else who can carry them out for you.
- Make a secondary list of tasks to get done in case you finish your main list early and have time left over.
- Create your to-do list either in your Action Guide or your tool of choice, such as a pad of paper, planner, or digital notebook (like Evernote).
- Start with a full list
- Choose the one thing you’ll do today, if you could just do one
- Repeat with the remaining list based on your initial priorities
- Look at your list and ask yourself which will bring you the greatest income with the least effort. Move this up in your list.
- Go through your list again and look for items you can remove or delegate.