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Last Updated on June 22, 2021

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

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How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

Every one of my team members has a bucket load of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creative tasks or problem-solving tasks. Each one of them has had to learn how to prioritize tasks in order to get everything done.

Despite having many tasks to handle, our team is able to stay focused and creative and work towards our goals consistently in a set amount of time.

I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours in the long run. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize things:

How to Prioritize With the Scales Method

One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.

At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days. All of this was making it impossible for her to develop a good work life balance in the long term.

After she listened to my advice about utilizing the Scales Method, she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:

  • She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles.
  • She could publish all her articles on time.
  • And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!).

If you’re curious how she did it, read on for the step-by-step guide:

1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning

When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.

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My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning, but keep it short. 10 or 15 minutes should be adequate to think about your plan.

Use this time to:

  • Look at the big picture.
  • Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
  • Lay out all the tasks you need to do.

2. Align Your Tasks With Your Goal

This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective as you learn how to prioritize.

It works like this:

Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.

By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money, and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.

    To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:

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    Low Cost + High Benefit

    Do these tasks first because they’re the simplest ones to complete, but they’ll help you get closer to your goal.

    Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve it would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.

    High Cost + High Benefit

    Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete, and then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.

    Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new, diary-free, protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting, aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g. spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).

    Low Cost + Low Benefit

    When learning how to prioritize time and tasks, this particular combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kinds of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.

    These are probably necessary tasks (e.g. routine tasks like checking emails), but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.

    High Cost + Low Benefit

    Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.

    For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there that can make this process instant and seamless.

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    Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:

      After listening to my advice, she broke down the high cost + high benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):

        And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only, thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.

        Once you’ve effectively analyzed the cost and benefits of your daily tasks, you can dive into this Full Life Planner to make sure you complete everything on your list in the best way possible.

        Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks With Deadlines

        Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on how to prioritize based on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of setting goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be due dates set by external parties, such as managers and agencies.

        In cases like these, I suggest that, after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list in a way that helps you meet deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

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        For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.

        Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates, so these are urgent and important tasks. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:

          Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to prioritize them into a workable order.

          The Bottom Line

          The Scales Method is different from anything else you’ve tried. By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work and boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

          Unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefit. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefit combinations, which can boost your career development overall.

          Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be very easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains is that you kick off your next working day by following your new master list.

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          Featured photo credit: Scott Graham via unsplash.com

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          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on September 9, 2021

          The Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work

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          The Ultimate List of Deep Focus Music for Productive Work

          Everyone has their favorite habits for boosting productivity. Your desk setup, morning routine, and diet all play a role. But there’s one thing that everyone agrees can make a difference: focus music.

          Soothing beats can keep distractions at bay, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Whether you’re trying to drown out mowers or simply get into a groove, put on a pair of headphones. Music can make all the difference in your focus.

          With that said, not all music is equally conducive to productivity. You need to be careful about what you listen to. Getting work done calls for very different sounds than getting a workout in.

          If you need a little more help to get rid of distractions, check out Lifehack’s free guide End Distraction And Find Your Focus. In this guide you’ll learn the simple techniques to stay focused and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

          This article will walk you through selecting the best music for productivity, as well as a list of tunes to help you get started.

          How to Pick the Best Focus Music For Yourself

          With so many genres and artists out there, there’s a lot of music to choose from. Before you press play, keep the following guidelines in mind:

          1. Stick With Instrumental

          Songs without words in them make it easier to focus. Lyrics can distract you from what you’re trying to accomplish because you might get the words mixed up with what you’re trying to read. If you’re writing something, you might find yourself typing the lyrics instead.

          Intelligence and instrumental music are correlated, perhaps because instrumental music is less intrusive.[1] Instrumental music tends to fade into the background, giving you a rhythm without pulling your mind away from the task at hand.

          Stay away from instrumental versions of songs you recognize. It’s easy to fill in the blanks with the lyrics if you’ve already committed them to memory.

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          However, some exceptions can be made. Creatives who produce videos or audio might prefer tracks that get their creative juices going, lyrics and all. However, if you find lyrics to be distracting, switch back to instrumental tunes.

          2. Take It Easy

          Not all instrumental music is calm and relaxing. Focus music should be, however. So, beware of instrumental songs that are too loud and stimulating. High volumes and tempos can work you up when you need to stay calm.

          Again, some roles can make exceptions. Physical laborers can use more rambunctious tunes to keep them energized. While calm tunes work best for those in desk-based roles, don’t go too extreme. Something that’s too soothing might make you feel tired, and yawning all day isn’t exactly the path to productivity.

          3. Pick Music You Enjoy

          At the end of the day, the best focus music is what you enjoy. If you hate classical music, don’t put together a classical playlist just because you stumbled on a study about its benefits.[2] Your dislike of the music will take away the productivity you’d otherwise get out of listening to it.

          Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’ve never worked while listening to jazz before, why not? Save songs you like for later listening. Over time, you’ll build a playlist of tried-and-true focus music.

          4. Update Your Setup

          Before jamming out to your productivity tunes, make sure you have the right equipment. Invest in a music streaming service so you don’t have to listen to ads. Purchase noise-canceling headphones to avoid distracting your co-workers.

          Focus music is all about ambience. Anything that interrupts your flow—whether that’s poor sound quality or glitchy streaming—needs to go.

          Expect to spend at least $100 on headphones or speakers. For the streaming service itself, Spotify Premium is the standard at $9.99 per month. Slacker, Apple Music, and YouTube Music are also popular.

          Building Your Perfect Playlist of Focus Music (With Recommendations)

          Now that you know what to look for in focus music and how to listen, it’s time to build your playlist. Get started with these smooth, instrumental genres, artists, and songs.

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          1. Chillhop Music

          This YouTube channel has almost 3 million subscribers. Its music videos run 24/7 and feature driving yet relaxing beats.

          Most songs on this channel fall into a category called “lofi hip hop,” a type of electronic R&B. Unlike traditional hip hop, lofi hip hop songs follow a slow, steady pattern that induces focus and relaxation.

          Chillhop playlists can also be streamed on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp. Popular artists include nymano, No Signal, and Sleepy Fish.

          2. Andy McKee

          Andy McKee is an acoustic guitarist who became famous after “Drifting,” one of his early songs, went viral on YouTube. “Drifting” exemplifies the creative, quiet guitar techniques found in the rest of McKee’s music.

          Today, McKee has six albums of primarily acoustic guitar. One of McKee’s most popular pieces, “Rylynn,” is a perfect example of his soothing yet upbeat sound.

          3. John Butler Trio

          The band John Butler Trio became popular after releasing “Ocean,” a 2012 hit with more than 50 million listens on YouTube.[3] Heavy on acoustic guitar, “Ocean” is an intricate ballad that ebbs and flows like the ocean itself.

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          Known for flowing changes in key and mood, the John Butler Trio proves that fast songs can stand in as great focus music. The group’s long songs—“Ocean” is 12 minutes long—are less disruptive for long projects. Two other favorites by John Butler Trio are “Betterman” and “Spring to Come.”

          4. Classical Radio on Pandora

          Classical music has long been a staple for music lovers looking to get work done. Pandora’s classical station features a great mix, from Beethoven to modern artists like Maria Callas and Jorge Bolet.

          Pandora has radio stations for every genre imaginable. You can generate playlists based on genre, artist, or even a specific song.

          Other music apps offer similar playlists and radio stations you can turn to for your classical music fix. From piano-heavy tunes to violin concertos, you’ll find plenty to perk up your ears.

          5. Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack

          Movie soundtracks are full of amazing focus music. One of my favorites is the Pirates of the Caribbean series, which is lively and adventurous but not in your face.

          If you like what you hear, Hans Zimmer, the mastermind behind the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, has worked on a huge array of films. Zimmer also put together the soundtracks for The Dark Knight, Interstellar, and Inception.

          One thing to watch out for with cinematic music is associations. As iconic as the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack is, if you’re thinking about Jack Sparrow instead of balancing spreadsheets, you should probably switch to a new song.

          6. Legend of Zelda Soundtrack

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          Another hotspot for instrumental music is video games. If you’re not sure where to start, check out selections from The Legend of Zelda.

          Anyone who’s played The Legend of Zelda games will immediately recognize what they hear. The soundtrack is light, airy, and full of awe. Keyboards, harps, and flutes feature prominently.

          Although you could spend hours listening to The Legend of Zelda music, don’t forget about fan-produced songs in this genre. The video-gaming community is robust, and instrumental re-creations of your favorite games’ soundtracks can be found all over the internet.

          7. Nature Sounds and White Noise

          This genre may be too relaxing for some, but others prefer less structured focus music. Sounds like thunder, wind, and rushing water can transport you to a quiet, idyllic place to get work done.

          One type of white noise to avoid is city-related sounds. Even without lyrics, honking horns or chattering crowds can be distracting.

          An advantage of this type of focus music is that it can be set on a loop. If you find a track you like, go ahead and put it on repeat. When it starts over, you won’t even notice.

          Ready, Set, Play

          The best part about focus music is that nothing is off-limits. Some people work better listening to Tom Petty tunes than instrumental music, and that’s okay. What’s important is that it’s motivating without being distracting.

          To unlock your next tier of productivity, spend a couple of hours clicking around on your favorite streaming music site. You’ll get more done, and best of all, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

          More Tips to Improve Your Focus

          Featured photo credit: Lala Azizli via unsplash.com

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          Reference

          [1] New York Post: Smarter people listen to instrumental music: study
          [2] Forbes: Does Classical Music Help Our Productivity?
          [3] YouTube: Ocean – John Butler – 2012 Studio Version

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