This blog post is written by Mikella, a Guide to Graduate writer, entrepreneur, and excel sheet enthusiast.
As I was driving home the other night (caught in the usual rush-hour traffic, of course). I couldn’t put my mind to rest as it raced through my seemingly endless to-do list.
“Pack the kids’ lunch, get my workout in, make sure to submit that end-of-month expense report to my boss; oh, and I can’t cancel on my friend for dinner again, so I have to be sure to do my grocery shopping before our reservation.”
Are there ever enough hours in the day? I used to wonder the same thing, That is, until I learned how to properly prioritize.
While I can’t promise to shrink down the items on your to-do list, I can help offer some advice to give you some time back in your day to tackle them all And, as a full-time project manager at a tech company, a mom of three (including head of the PTA), and a part-time writer for the amazing readers here at Guide to Graduate, I have plenty of tips and tricks to share on the topic.
Want to Prioritize? First, Clear Your Mind.
My secret to getting everything done is knowing that I’ll never be able to get everything done – at least not all at once. And I’m okay with that (and you should be, too!).
Instead, I focus on establishing priorities to gain control over all of my tasks, and complete them in an order of urgent to not-so-urgent.
However, with so much going on and so much to do, often everything can feel like it’s the most urgent – I get it. That’s why, before even getting to prioritizing, I give myself a moment to clear my mind. I can then take on my to do list refreshed and with a new perspective, listing out my to-dos in a purposeful, organized way.
Prioritizing with Purpose Starts with Post-Its
To purposefully piece together my priorities, I start by grabbing a stack of post-its and writing out my to dos one by one. I then set them aside in three groups – group one being what I consider to be most urgent, and group three being items of least priority. That leaves those somewhere-in-the-middle tasks for group two.
I then subcategorize each group in order of importance, and stack my post-its in a grid on my white board in a cascading order of urgency. As I move through each task, I rip them off the wall with a sense of accomplishment (try it – it’s fun!).
Evaluate Where, and How, You Expend Your Energy
Once your priorities are set, the hard work really just begins. Afterall, half of the magic of being a good prioritizer is how you execute upon those prioritized tasks.
I’m a firm believer that in order to get things done quickly and efficiently, you need to maximize your energy, and there’s a bit of evidence to back that up. Research shows that we work best when saving up our energy for medium-length bursts of extremely focused work, followed by a short break.
So, once I’m happy with how my list is set up, I focus my energy only on the most important tasks at-hand, and move down the list once each item is complete. Of course, I’m flexible as new projects and items pop-up, but I try to remain diligent on the most important tasks at hand during my working hours. This ensures my focus and energy is always being maximized in order of priority.
And that’s prioritizing with purpose.