Can you believe the first quarter of the year is done and dusted? Time to check in on how you’re progressing toward those big, exciting goals you set for 2019.
If you’re on target and have accomplished some great outcomes so far, amazing! Keep at it.
On the other hand, if you’re not feeling great about your goal progress, in spite of always feeling ‘busy’, don’t despair. Let’s take a look at how priority setting will help you get the things that really matter done and move you closer to your goals each day.
Why Priority Setting Is The Key To Smashing Goals
You can create exciting goals but without a commitment to prioritising the activities you spend your time and energy on, it’s unlikely you’ll reach them.
Getting your priorities straight creates a path for you to walk along to meet your goals. Without putting daily, weekly and monthly priorities in place, we’re directionless. Sure, we might be ‘busy’, but we’re busy doing the wrong things.
We’re all faced with hundreds of choices every day, from figuring out what to eat for lunch through to deciding to accept a job offer.
Having priorities makes our choices clearer. For example, if your goal is to lose weight and you prioritise your health, you’ll skip the burger and chips for lunch and choose a chicken salad instead.
If your goal is to move into management, you prioritise activities that will get you there. The new job offer might sound interesting, but is it a step to the side rather than up? Will it get you where you want to be 5 years from now?
Without priorities, we can become confused and weighed down by decision making. When we’re clear on the direction we’re headed, decision making is simplified.
Important vs Urgent Priorities
“I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Excellent time management isn’t just about being efficient, it’s about being effective. The classic time management prioritisation system, the “Eisenhower Principle”, shows tasks to be a mix of two main categories –
Urgent tasks that require immediate attention.
They’re usually yelling ‘ NOW!’ at us from our to-do list and put us into a reactive mode with a narrow focus. Usually, these tasks don’t contribute in a meaningful way to our long term goals.
Important activities that contribute to our big goals and long term mission.
Usually, these activities aren’t urgent but when we spend time on them we are investing in our future achievements and desires. These activities put us in a responsive and proactive mode.
Learning how to balance important vs urgent actions is the key to working more effectively, not just efficiently. Measure the future result of your tasks; will the impact stop the moment you stop working on it, or will it continue on, like a positive domino effect?
Tips For Priority Setting And Staying On Track
To accomplish your biggest yearly goals, master the habit of setting (and re-setting!) your priorities on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Your top 6. At the end of each workday, write down the 6 tasks (or less) you need to complete the following day. Prioritise the tasks in order of their true importance 1 through to 6. The following day, start work on number 1 and make your way through the list. Roll any remaining tasks over to the following day.
Eat the frog first. Make it your daily goal to complete the hairiest, hardest task first to get it out of the way. We all have a tendency to shuffle the activities we really don’t enjoy to the bottom of the list and pick off the easiest ones instead. Procrastinating on the ‘frog’ tasks means they soon become urgent and even more stressful.
Don’t let your inbox derail your daily plan. Is there anything more distracting than checking your inbox every time a new email arrives? Every message is a new distraction. Turn off your email notifications and stick to set times for checking your inbox.
Regularly review your workload. Is there a particular task that has been hanging around your list for days or even weeks? Is it something that can be delegated entirely or split between yourself and someone else?
Finish what you start. Where possible, avoid spending a short amount of time on a job before putting it back, unfinished, and starting something else. Your focus becomes scattered between a lot of different, incomplete tasks which is super distracting. Put all your attention on one activity until completion.
Use the Pareto Principle. Also known as the 80/20 rule, this principle says 20% of your efforts bring 80% of the results. Figure out the activities that bring real results (not just a quick win getting it checked off the to-do list) and prioritise those. Master this and your workday will be effective as well as efficient.
Keep a distraction list. This is a super effective method for keeping your mind on task. Whenever a distracting thought pops up about another task you need to do, for example, make a restaurant reservation, instead of breaking your work pattern to do it, simply jot it down. This keeps you focused on the job at hand, relieves your mind of any nagging thoughts and captures the task you need to do.
Schedule your important tasks. It’s easy to push aside activities that are important but not urgent when time critical tasks pop up. Make sure you’re giving enough attention to the activities that will impact long-range goals by blocking out regular time each week to work on them.
Behaviours That Derail Priority Setting
No matter how great your workflow and priority planning looks on paper, there are two key behaviours that will have those plans unraveling quickly.
Chronic people pleasing
Most of us like to lend a hand when we can but taking people pleasing to the extreme won’t help you achieve your own goals. Guilt about letting others down or fearing a negative reaction can have a powerful influence over your workday. Constantly reacting to other peoples requests and pushing aside your own priorities is the enemy of long term achievement.
‘Control freak’ and perfectionist tendencies
Aiming for high standards in your work is great, but the need to control Every.Single.Thing is actually setting yourself up for failure. When you don’t delegate work, you get caught up each day spending time on activities that don’t support your long term goals.
Prioritise the important things that will move you toward success and learn to delegate those that don’t.
Perfectionists procrastinate on even the smallest task for fear they won’t be able to execute it perfectly. This behaviour is a real roadblock for achieving your goals and correctly setting priorities.
To a perfectionist, everything is important which clouds judgement around the activities and outcomes that impact long term goals vs those that won’t matter five minutes from now.
What priorities will you be setting, or changing, to keep you moving steadily towards your yearly goals?
We all have the same amount of time in a day, but what’s the best way to use it? No one wants to be reactive and feel like they’re always playing catch-up – like there’s never any rest! Our workshop program Time And Priorities is great for those who are sick of hearing (or saying!) ‘I’m busy’ all the time. The program helps teams set the right priorities and manage time to work smarter, not harder.