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4 Ways To Prioritize Tasks Effectively

Written by: Daniel Mangena, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

How much of your day is spent deep in contemplative, thoughtful, and productive…distraction?! I’m sure you’ve been there through many a working day: you sit down at your desk (be it in an office or at home), grab your note pad and jot down your tasks for the day. It looks a bit ambitious, but you’ve slept well, and you’re raring to go!

By lunchtime, task one isn’t done. You’ve caught up with everyone, put in your final bid on that pair of shoes or new watch on eBay, maybe people have come to you with their emergencies, and now the task list is looking more like a millstone around your neck.


Come 3:00 pm, you're rushing to check things off so that you can finish on time, and by 4:45 – you’re looking at what isn’t that important and can wait till tomorrow.


What did you accomplish?


I’m sure that you achieved some things, and probably even to a high standard, but how much progress did you make? Did you get done the most important tasks that are going to enable you to achieve your three-year goal?


These very same people will often complain about having too much on their ‘To Do’ list and not being able to get it done.


Want to know the truth? There is too much on your ‘To Do’ list


There is a huge tendency to overload your list every day because you’re seeking the dopamine hit from ticking things off. But this driving force can lead you to pile up your day with unnecessary, time-draining endeavors that don’t get you any closer to your goals and pretty quickly leave you spinning your wheels.


In order to be as productive as possible, in service of our goals and aspirations, we have to learn how to prioritize! Here are four key ways to prioritize effectively. I got them from the incredible April Garcia, who recently guested on my Beyond Success podcast. April is “the Business Adviser you’d love to have a beer with” and founder of Pivot Me.


1. Practice ruthless prioritization


As I said: you have too much on your ‘To Do’ list. Based, no doubt, on a completely interruption-free day. If such a thing exists, please be sure to let me know where to find it!


So you have to get ruthless with what’s on your plate. Of every item on your list, ask the following:

  • Does this really need to be done by me?

  • It can be so hard to give up control/dominion of a certain task. We often feel like we have to own something from soup to nuts, but if it can be delegated: delegate it!

  • Does this task get me towards my three-year goal?

  • With an overly full ‘To Do’ list, we can often get bogged down in the minutia of someone else’s priorities. Priorities that, in a week or two’s time, nobody is going to care about.

  • Is this a priority for you? “If it’s not a ‘hell yes,’ then it’s a ‘hell no’”!


2. Become proficient at the high-value tasks


So many people seek out business coaches and mentors, usually with the express purpose of wanting to “do more and do it faster!” This desire to jam their foot on the gas pedal, while understandable, misses the point.


Accelerating growth in every facet of your business is imprudent and unwieldy. It can often feel like simple out-and-out progress should be the driving force behind everything you do, but the fact is that time and resources are finite.


If something isn’t serving you in pursuit of a goal, or even just isn’t as effective as something else, don’t prioritize it! Even if it’s something you’d quite like to do, it’s not serving you.


By the same token, we must acknowledge the things like book-keeping and record management that may not in and of themselves directly serve our goals but nevertheless require our attention. These clerical tasks should be given their time, or better yet: find the resources to pay someone to do them for you.


It’s not about doing all of the things faster. It’s about doing the high-value tasks faster! It’s about progressing faster in the areas that really serve you.


3. Find your daily ‘one thing’

When you’re looking at your tasks for the day, what’s the most high-value item? Identify it, then do it by 9:27 am every morning.


We have a lamentable tendency to push the more important tasks out towards the end of the day. Why?! You have to ask yourself the question: if the building burns down by 9:27 am, what’s the one thing I desperately need to have done?


Put a gun to your head and make it happen by that time, whatever the task is. By cultivating this discipline, you’re going to train yourself to identify priorities faster and free your ‘mental real estate’ up for the rest of the day.


Putting off the most important task to the end of the day isn’t a victimless crime! You know the weight that it carries, and that is going to play on your mind until it’s done. This distraction is going to impact your ability to perform whatever other tasks you’re trying to accomplish by restricting your ‘mental bandwidth.’


Why 9:27? Because our days can so easily blow up!


I’m sure you’ve encountered those days where you lay out your stall first thing in the morning, you give yourself a bunch of tasks, and then proceed to be beset by unforeseen issues that come at you out of nowhere.


It’s normal for this to happen. It’s just life. So by keeping that gun to your head and making sure that the most important thing gets done by 9:27 – you build in resilience. At least you know that no matter what happens, the most important thing is going to get done.


4. Combat distraction


All the scheduling in the world can’t help you when it comes to the actual doing of the task. Yes ok: perfect preparation can make execution easier, effortless even - but you still have to execute it!


Your brain is your best friend and your worst enemy in this regard. It holds the necessary resources in order to complete your tasks, but it is also so easily distracted. Especially when it comes to tasks that you don’t want to do.


It is incredibly hard to focus when the task in hand isn’t particularly stimulating for you. You’ll get lost in trains of thought about your groceries, news, that eBay auction you’re watching… You probably don’t even notice yourself getting pulled away but suddenly realize that you’ve spent the last half-hour yelling at some dude on a Facebook thread, having just looked on there to get someone’s contact information!


We’ve all been there, but if you want a quick hack to help keep your feet to the fire, here it is: set a timer.


If you go on Youtube, you can find videos that will give you intervals of five, ten, twenty minutes, etc.… Put one of those on and adjust down (lessen) the intervals based on your general energy level and willingness or otherwise to do the task.


What is the purpose of this? Well, the odds are that by the time that timer goes off - you’ll catch yourself yet again in a state of distraction, whether internally or externally. The timer will remind you to get back on track and also serve as an indicator of just how much of your day is spent, wallowing in distraction!


Don’t use your phone as a timer, simply because it threatens your focus by sucking you into whatever vortex of social media apps you have on there!


The universe is abundant. It wants to give you what you’re asking for, and it will! Trust me. You just need to be specific in what you’re asking for and then really ask for it! So many people think that they’re being specific, sitting around wishing to themselves that they had more money; but how much more? Who are you going to share that with? What does your ideal life look like…in detail?!


By putting in the time with yourself to understand exactly the life you want to achieve and then being ruthless in prioritizing the tasks that will get you there: you’re being direct with the universe. Do that, and the universe will direct you to give you what you want.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


 

Daniel Mangena, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dan Mangena is a best-selling author, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and public speaker. Recently named in the Wall St Journal as a "Master of Success," he is completely self-made and has spent decades perfecting his world-class coaching methodology. His books, podcasts, events & retreats continue to help captains-of-industry, and private individuals alike live an abundant, joyful, purpose-driven life. He offers many unique and effective free tools via his website.

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