5 Ways to Identify Your Priorities and Work on Them
We all have goals and want to move forwards with them, but some days it’s just hard. We’re tired, can’t be bothered and the sofa and Netflix seem far more appealing than working on our dreams. I’ve been there. In fact, I’m there most mornings when I realise I finished my breakfast half an hour ago and need to get moving.
However to be effective and get things moving, we don’t have to do all the things in one go. If we identify our priorities and put our effort into them every day, then we will move forwards more quickly.
This sounds simple, but in order to be able to make the most of this, we need to know two things.
1. What are our priorities?
2. How can we motivate ourselves to work on them?
Well here’s 5 things that help me get to the heart of it all and move the needle in the right direction, every day.
1. What are the things that are going to move things forwards today?
Let’s start with the big question. What is actually going to help you move things forwards today?
That’s right. Today.
Not tomorrow, not this week, not this year. Just today. It’s great to have a big picture view of what you need to achieve overall, whether that be in your business, your fitness or some other area of your life, but knowing that won’t necessarily get you moving today. It’s too easy to pick a random task to work on, simply to look busy and feel productive but that doesn’t mean it’ll yield results!
Take a look at your plans, goals and lists and find what will make the biggest different today, and start there.
2. Get clear on the difference between an important task and an urgent one
It’s really easy to get bogged down with tasks that aren’t moving you forwards and one thing that will make this worse is if you don’t know the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important.
Urgent tasks need to be done right now but important tasks don’t always need to be. Urgent tasks won’t always get you closer to where you need to be, but it’s likely important tasks will.
Want some examples? Well I have urgent emails to respond to right now, but they won’t get me closer to most of my goals. The most important thing for me to work on right now is my writing, but I have no deadlines so it’s not urgent. This makes it easier to put off (something I have become annoyingly good at) but if I don’t focus my attention on how important it is, it’ll never reach to the top of my list.
Want some ideas for dealing with people who stomp on your boundaries. Head over here.
3. Be honest with yourself
As I’ve just said, there are things that shoot to the top of our to do lists simply because they’re fun, easy or a quick tick on the list. Or alternatively because someone else demands that we do them first.
But when it comes to working towards where you want to be, it’s far better to get the high priority task done first and then move on with your day. This is where you need to get honest with yourself.
I work best in the mornings, so I have to fight the urge to do all the other things until after 1 pm when I stop. I used to do bits of exercise, cleaning, see friends, call my Mum, basically anything else I could think of in the morning. Then I didn’t have the energy to work (thanks CFS) and I was no closer to where I wanted to be.
Now I’m far stricter with myself and all of those tasks can wait until the afternoon, evening or weekend. I get far more done and the work is of a higher standard because of it. I’m building a business I’m proud of, simply because I’m saying “no” to all the things that don’t move me forwards.
4. Schedule the time to work on them before anything else
Aim to give yourself an allocated block of time to work on urgent tasks but don’t let them take over your whole day. Most things aren’t as urgent as we think they are and having a short block of time twice a day to respond to messages and emails is enough for most people.
If you know that you’ll work through your inbox and reply to urgent messages for the first 10 minutes of each working day, before turning your attention to your number 1 high priority task, then that’s a good balance.
I tend to plan my working mornings in advance so I know what area I’ll be working on, for example, is it a blogging day, a writing day or a client work day? Then on the day itself, I plan a short to do list with up to 3 priority tasks, allow a few minutes to reply to emails and then get straight on with the big stuff. Even if I find it hard and I take a few tea breaks, I know what I’ve got to do first, before I move onto more fun things, like social media.
Prioritise your own priorities and don’t let other tasks steal all your time!
5. Reassess regularly
Priorities change, so you’re going to need to keep coming back to where we started regularly, and ask yourself “What is actually going to help me move things forwards today?”
It’s easy to operate on autopilot but if you always do that, then you’re going to be working on things that might now be a waste of your time. For example, blog posts bring me most traffic to my website so I allocate time to them first in my week, but if that changes and suddenly Pinterest or my newsletters send more traffic this way, then I’d need to adapt.
Be aware of what you’re achieving each time you work on your goals and ask if your time could be better spent. Of course, I don’t mean that we need to hustle to reach our goals every minute of the day. Not in the slightest. What I do want for you though is not to waste your time working on things that do’t move that needle forwards. Time is tight for most people and we don’t like feeling as though we’ve wasted it.
Just keep honestly asking yourself, what makes the difference here? And then giving yourself the time to work on that before you do the other things.
What tips would you add for knowing your priorities and then working on them consistently? Is this something you find easy or do you struggle? Let me know in the comments below.