Managing Your Priorities

Managing Your Priorities
Determining and managing our priorities can be one of the biggest headaches around, if we allow it to be. It can take
more time, and cause more stress, than actually “doing” whatever it is that needs to be done. Life is filled with more things
that need to be done than there are hours in the day, yet we often feel guilty that we cannot accomplish more.
Prioritizing is all about time management, learning to manage our time with efficiency and wisdom, and bringing a certain
sense of balance into our lives. The first thing that we need to realize is that we cannot depend on our memories to
manage our time. If we take care of things as they surface in our memories, we run the risk of forgetting to do tasks that,
if left undone, have major ramifications.
The first step in prioritizing our tasks is to create a “to do” list. Way back when, this list was easily handled with the most
marvelous invention in the world – the stickie. The problem was – as the to do list grew, the little yellow stickies multiplied
like rabbits! We then gave in, and either had a bunch of stickies stuck together, or we had long written lists of tasks. This
was fine – in fact, it still is fine, at least as a beginning step.
At the end of the day, with your to do list for the next day in front of you, take a few moments to go over it.
• What on that list could be, or actually should be, done by someone else? If you can delegate a task – do so. Don’t make a
note to yourself to do so, actually do the delegating. If you are in a work situation where the delegating needs to be done
by someone else, take the time to create a presentation to your supervisor or manager detailing why this task would be
better done by someone else.
• Make a mental note of the urgency for each task. Not the importance, but the urgency. Has something been promised
by a certain date or time? Is there a deadline for turning something in? Does one thing have to be accomplished before
something else can be done? No matter how much time they take, these items go to the top of the priority list!
• Are there items that can be grouped together and accomplished at the same time? List these items as a group, and
check t hem off as t hey are done.
• Is there anything on this list that can be done on another day, or even another week? If so, move that task. Do so now,
while you are reviewing your to do list, so that moving the task does not become something more to do!
• Prioritize your tasks by their urgency, not by the sense of time involved. Listing short, easily accomplished tasks at the
top of your list will give you a false sense of accomplishment. Many of these are “make work” tasks, and do nothing to help
you accomplish your short or long term goals.
• On a weekly basis, look over all of your to do lists. Was your time spent wisely? Did your actions help you accomplish
your goals? If you are carrying over tasks from one day to the next, not by choice, but simply because there was not
enough time to do them, did they really belong on that list?
Now your to do list has more than likely been both shortened rearranged, more accurately reflecting your needs and
goals. If you have not been working on your list in an electronic format, your next step should be to do this. There are
many ways that this can be accomplished. Use of a PDA (personal digital assistant) rates high on my list, especially if
you are on the go a great deal. PDA’s are small, portable, hand held devices that keep your lists and schedules with you
at all times.
I work at home, and do most of my work by computer. I use an electronic software program that allows me to list tasks by
day, as well as by month, and to prioritize them. Repetitive tasks (i.e. end of month reports) can be scheduled one time
and show up when they are supposed to. It also allows me to move tasks from day to day, and gives me the ability to see
my schedule at a glance for months ahead.
Our ability to reach our goals, and to be successful, is to a large extent determined by making the best use of our time.
Long ago I realized that the small amount of time that I spent at the end of each day making (and prioritizing) my next
days to do list actually saved me time. I did not suffer the embarrassment of forgetting to do something, my projects were
turned in on time and in good order, I learned the fine art of delegation, I quit wasting my time rushing to do many small
tasks at t he beginning of the day that could be just as easily accomplished throughout the day, and I learned to place my
efforts towards the tasks t hat would help me to accomplish my goals.
Learning to prioritize your tasks is a primary decision making skill. It is a process that we all deal with on a daily basis,
and a tool that we have control over. Placing value on yourself, and your time, will help you build a solid foundation upon
which to accomplish your goals and build your success. Make being effective a priority over simply being efficient.
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Determine what needs to be done, and the order in which it needs to be done. Learn to say no to tasks that should not
be yours. Make sure that the tasks that fill your day are helping you to accomplish your goals. If they turn out to be “busy
work”, perhaps they don’t actually need to be done, or at least do not need to be done as often as they are being done.
Last, but not least, make yourself, and your goals, the most important thing in your life!
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