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Last Updated on November 18, 2019

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

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

Everyone of my team members has a bucketload of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.

Despite having loads of tasks to handle, our team is able to stay creative and work towards our goals consistently.

How do we manage that?

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 over the long term. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize:

The Scales Method – a productivity method I created several years ago.

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.

    After she listened to my advice – and I introduced her to 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!)

    Curious to find out how she did it? Read on for the step-by-step guide:

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    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.

    My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning – but keep it short. Ideally, 10 or 15 minutes. This 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.

    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:

      Low Cost + High Benefit

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      Do these tasks first because they’re the simple ones to complete, yet 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 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

      This combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kind 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.

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      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 they can make this process instant and seamless.

      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.

          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 which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of achieving your goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be deadlines set by external parties such as managers and agencies.

          What to do in these cases?

          Well, I suggest that after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list with the deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

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

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          Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates. 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 order them in lists of priority.

            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 most importantly – boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

            And 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 benefits. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefits combinations.

            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 super-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 list.

            Trust me, once you begin using the Scales Method – you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of working.

            More to Boost Productivity

            Featured photo credit: Vector Stock via vectorstock.com

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            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            Last Updated on December 2, 2019

            How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

            How to Develop Mental Toughness And Stay Strong

            Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

            I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

            Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

            How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

            Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

            Sometimes, our goals wear us down and leave us feeling exhausted. Other times, our goals get difficult, and success seems impossible, so we lose hope, become discouraged, and want to quit.

            At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

            Want to know the good news?

            No matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

            All you need to do is learn to develop a positive mindset, focus on your why, and utilize the people around you for support.

            1. Develop a Positive Mindset

            If you’re going to increase your mental toughness, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset.

            According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

            That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

            Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

            Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

            Absolutely!

            But how can we learn to spot those 45,600 negative thoughts and get rid of them? How can we empty our metaphorical backpack?

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            Well, it gets a whole lot easier if you know what you’re looking for. Some of the most prominent types of negative thoughts are self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, and dwelling.

            Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

            It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

            “I’m not smart enough to…”

            “I don’t have enough experience to…”

            “I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

            When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively. We’re effectively working against ourselves.

            If you want to keep your mind strong on your path to success, you have to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back by realizing one key truth: self-limiting beliefs are thoughts, not facts.

            When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

            • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
            • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
            • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

            Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

            Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

            All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

            But this isn’t true!

            If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

            If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often and it will help you celebrate your smaller wins.

            When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

            Ditch the Dwelling

            Self-Limiting Beliefs and All-or-Nothing Thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

            Every day, bad things happen to each of us, and while there’s nothing we can do to prevent that, we can control how we react to these situations.

            When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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            But that doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

            The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

            Easier said than done, right? Try these:

            1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
            2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
            3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
            4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

            The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

            Be Patient about the Process

            No matter which negative thoughts tend to run around your mind, working to replace them with positive thoughts can take time.

            Learning to spot self-limiting beliefs, all-or-nothing thinking, or dwelling is one thing, but learning to quiet those thoughts is another thing entirely.

            If at first you don’t succeed, don’t fret. Instead, take a deep breath and try again. As you work towards improving your mindfulness and your mental toughness, remember that you’re going to get better with time.

            To make things a little easier, it helps to connect with your purpose.

            2. Connect with Your Purpose

            One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong ‘why’ for everything you want to do.

            If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a ‘why’ for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

            Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution and things weren’t going well, maybe you even wanted to quit. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower. Maybe you told yourself that you didn’t have enough discipline.

            Here’s the truth: you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

            Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

            “Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

            One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a ‘why’ for. This is when we tend to look for external motivation or question our willpower, but those aren’t the issues.

            Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

            Find Intrinsic Motivation

            Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers.

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            Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

            But if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that ‘why’ is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

            If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things. Once you’ve found a strong why for all of your goals, you’ll find that you’ll have significantly more energy to pursue your more difficult challenges.

            3. Find Strength in Unity

            The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone. It’s a fact, anyone who’s ever achieved success in anything didn’t do so alone.

            Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

            Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were there offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

            If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

            If you want to stay strong in your endeavors, you need to build a team of supporters who will step in and back you up when it counts.

            Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

            The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success.

            A good mentor will help you discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

            If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

            Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

            Recruit Some Cheerleaders

            If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

            Even if you have a strong ‘why’ and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

            As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. And when they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs or your all-or-nothing attitude.

            Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

            Form an Accountability Group

            Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong ‘why’ for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

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            Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

            Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

            Even if your goals aren’t the same, accountability partners are great for giving us the push we need when we need it most.

            Regardless of which relationships you choose, sometimes we have to be able to work through things on our own. Mentors, cheerleaders, and accountability partners are a great way for us to combat our naturally negative mindsets, but occasionally we have to be able to pick ourselves back up.

            4. Learn to Pick Yourself Back Up After Setbacks

            Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

            As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

            We all struggle. We all fail. It’s what we decide to do after we fail that truly counts.

            When you find yourself in a low spot, ask yourself these questions:

            • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
            • “Are negative thoughts such as Self-Limiting Beliefs or All-or-Nothing Thinking distorting my view?”
            • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
            • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
            • “Is this goal still important to me? Do I still have a ‘why’?”
            • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or cheer me on? Who can help hold me accountable?”

            Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged. When we feel discouraged, we start feeling weak, maybe even a little hopeless.

            Also, this article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

            Tying it All Together

            Are you still with me? I know I’ve thrown a lot at you, from developing a positive mindset and combatting your internal voice to connecting with purpose and building a committee of mentors. It’s a lot to take it!

            But here’s the bottom line:

            A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize these tendencies and taking action to correct them early on. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

            No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

            More About Mental Strength

            Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

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