People have used to-do lists for many years, whether on a piece of paper or electronically (I am really enjoying the Asana app right now)! While to-do lists are helpful, they can get out of hand quickly. What I mean by this is that the number of items on your list has the ability to grow exponentially. All control goes out the window and anxiety creeps in as your list(s) grow longer by the minute, hour, or day.
Prioritization aligns tasks in an orderly fashion, helping the list maker determine the appropriate order in which each item needs completed. With people holding numerous roles and taking on more depending on the day, prioritization is critical to achieving success. Without it, everything is considered equal, and each item has the potential to be both important and urgent.
To ensure I maintain my sanity, I have had to learn the art of saying “no” to some opportunities that come my way. Setting goals and prioritizing has helped me rid myself of the guilt that used to come with saying no. There have also been times when I have said no to something I would enjoy, because it would not be worth the expense of throwing off my current balance.
- Stoplight Game: The stoplight approach is where you look at all that you are doing and drop those tasks into 3 distinct buckets: (1) what I can stop doing; (2) what can I do less of; and (3) what can I start doing? This is a helpful exercise for individuals and teams. Once you develop your goals, this exercise becomes even more helpful, as you align what you are doing to your goals and begin to see value-add and non value-add tasks appear, making it a bit easier to see what falls into each of the three buckets.
- ABCs and 123s: In a planner or notebook, write down all of the items that you need to do for the day. Next to them, write A, B, or C based on how high of a priority they are (A is highest priority, B is next highest, etc.). From there, prioritize your A items by adding 1, 2, 3, and then move and apply the same to the B items, etc. Now, you are able to work from A1, A2, B1, B2, etc. to complete your action items. For some individuals, this exercise may be overwhelming, whereas it may be the perfect match for someone that is extremely detail oriented.
- Top 3: In the morning, write down the top 3 action items you need to accomplish during the day. If nothing else, you need to get those items completed. One consideration is to ensure your items are not HUGE tasks, but reasonable to complete during the day. Keep this list near you throughout the day as a reminder of what your focus should be. A friend of mine uses post-it notes for this approach and puts them on the wall in front of her work station.
What other approaches do you use, or have you used, to help prioritize all that is on your plate?