Most of my clients come to me in a state of overwhelm. They have too many commitments and too little time in which to get them all done. They’re in a state of being overly busy (and we’ve been through why being busy is bad).
The problem is: they don’t know how to figure out how to prioritize what’s on their plate. In fact, many of them think it’s all important. But the truth is: everything can’t be a priority.
I find that many of us struggle with how to prioritize – it’s a near-universal issue. Today, I’m recommending 3 techniques to help you learn to prioritize like a pro – so you can start spending your time on what matters most to you.
Table of Contents
Technique #1: Question your assumptions
Most of us commit ourselves to things that we don’t need to be doing or to unreasonable – and unnecessary – timeframes. Why? Because we assume. We assume that we have to be the one doing the work/task. We assume that we must do something a particular way – because that’s just how it’s done. We assume that it must be done in the first place. And we even assume that we’ve got to do it NOW.
And we never question. But assumptions should always be questioned.
I want you to start identifying your assumptions and questioning them – for everything that you’ve been prioritizing. To do this, answer the following series of questions (and check your ego at the door so you can answer them honestly):
- How does it contribute to your needs, goals, and/or vision for your life (if you can’t identify anything here, drop it)?
- Do you really need to be the one doing this (or can you delegate it)?
- If you think you need to be the one doing it, why must it be you (be specific about why)?
- What would happen if it never gets done (if the consequences are insignificant, consider dropping it)?
- What is the real deadline (you can commit to a lesser time frame, but make sure you’re being reasonable)?
The answers to these questions will help guide you to determine (1) whether you want or need to be committed to something (or whether you can let it go), (2) whether you can delegate it to someone else, and (3) whether you can extend the timing of a project deadline.
Technique #2: Replace “I can’t” with “I won’t” and “I don’t have time” with “I won’t make time”
Every time you find yourself saying or thinking that you can’t do something, replace the “I can’t” with “I won’t”. And every time you say or think “I don’t have time”, replace that phrase with “I won’t make time”. Because that’s the truth.
This isn’t an issue of not having enough time. It’s an issue of what and how you’re prioritizing. So be honest with yourself about it and admit that you have a choice.
You’ll be amazed at how changing the words you’re using will change your point of view. It requires you to make an active choice. And it helps you to take control.
Once you do this, if you’re still not willing to move the activity up your priority ladder, then it’s time to admit that it’s not important to you. And time to let it go (or find someone else to do it).
Technique #3: Gift yourself some down-time
When you’ve realized that you need to rethink your priorities, give yourself some down time. Because it’s hard to think clearly without freeing your brain of all the clutter.
You may want to resist this step. Because it’s hard to allow yourself the break when you feel overwhelmed and like there’s too much to do. But this step is necessary – so don’t skip it (and it doesn’t have to involve a lot of time).
You’ll see real benefits by dedicating as little as 10-15 minutes per day to something that gives you a breather and helps you clear the clutter from your mind. And this can be anything – so long as it DOES NOT INVOLVE email, work of any kind, chores, social media, or anything else that is a time-waster, drain on your energy, or unhealthy for you.
The goal of your chosen activity is to recharge and increase your mental and physical energy. Some examples of what I’m talking about:
- taking a walk in your neighborhood
- reading a good book
- sitting outside while having your morning coffee, tea, smoothie, etc.
Whatever works to recharge you (that’s healthy). Bonus points if you do something outdoors (because nature has a way of calming the mind and increasing happiness). And extra bonus points if you can dedicate more than 10-15 minutes to this activity.
This time is for you, so use your imagination and do what will work best for you (and feel free to change it up daily). Doing this will help you be more focused and more productive. And it will increase your energy and put you in a better mood.
It will also help you think more clearly. So you can make the best decision on what and how to delegate, what to let go of, and how to get everything that is important done.
Let’s wrap it up
I’m going to leave you with a bit of a warning: there’s more left once you re-prioritize. You must learn how and when to delegate, how and when to let go of things that aren’t that important, how to say “no” and have strong boundaries, how to simplify your life, and so on.
And this article can only cover so much. But it’s a great starting point.