How to Prioritise

We're all busy, right?  But why is it that some people remain focused, calm and immeasurably productive in their busy-ness while others of us spin chaotic circles, getting nothing done?

Google 'how to prioritise' and you'll get 6.25 millions hits, each containing between one and 15 tips or strategies for getting your mind and tasks in shape to increase your efficiency and reduce your 'to do' list.  Assuming a 50 per cent overlap in suggestions, that's maybe 18 million thoughts on how to prioritise.

Underlying each of these - presuming they're any good - will be the basic psychological necessity of understanding what you value; what's important to you, so that you can organise your activities accordingly.

Here's a nifty exercise suggested by Joshua Fields Millburn in an online workshop of his that I participated in earlier this week.  (I've paraphrased it)

Write down how you spent the last 24 hours. Now look at the list. Are the things that you did in keeping with your real priorities? Are they in line with your values?

This struck me as a simple but powerful exercise so I had a go. Sure enough I was able to identify activities throughout my day that I did:

  1. Out of habit
  2. To procrastinate
  3. Because they were urgent (but not necessarily important) - see point two about procrastinating.
  4. In response to other people's needs (hard to avoid as a parent but illuminating nonetheless)
  5. That were in line with my goals and values.

I expanded this activity a little and asked myself: 

How does this list of what I did in the last 24 hours make me feel? 

Unsurprisingly the procrastinating made me feel dissatisfied, the urgent but not important made me feel good in a 'ticking things off the list' way, but not overly fulfilled. As a result of helping others I felt useful (assisted a journalist with some article content) through to frustrated ('helped' Mr 4 with small toys, TV and getting dressed for the millionth time).

The tasks that led me to feel deeply satisfied and as though I'd spent my day well were those that were in line with my goals and my values.  In my case this was creating resources to help others to help themselves; creativity and education being two of my tightly held values.

Want to know the brain science behind values? Try this.

I'm going to talk a bit about values in the coming weeks because knowing our values - the judgements we make about how important something is to us - makes almost everything easier.  It makes our decisions easier, it makes relationships easier, it simplifies day to day life and it reduces stress and anxiety.  How does it do that? That's exactly what I'll be talking about in upcoming posts but if you'd like a taster this was what I wrote on the topic last year.

Before I go though, I want you to think about your values, whether they align with how you spend your days and whether that knowledge influences how you prioritise?

Try the exercise above. Are you spending your time engaged in activities that fulfill you? That are important? And sustaining? If not, can you re-prioritise your daily tasks so that you get more of the positive energy that comes from working on what's important to you rather than just reacting or responding? 

If you're not clear on your values there are some easy activities that you can do. I'm sending a simple but fun values assessment exercise to my newsletter subscribers this week, so if you're not on the list hop on board and I'll pop one in your inbox too. 

The time has come for a bit of self reflection. I'm off to prioritise my day according to what's important to me. Let me know how you go too. x

Hey it's #IBOT