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Published on June 18, 2020

7 Proven Techniques to Set Priorities That Work

7 Proven Techniques to Set Priorities That Work

The key to staying productive and focused is to set priorities that maximize your time. You can create a mental picture of what you want to achieve in life and schedule your tasks to align with that picture. By doing this, your priorities will reflect your goals and help you effectively stay on track.

Why Is It Important to Set Priorities?

Setting priorities will enable you to:

Live a Full Life

Some people believe you have to sacrifice an aspect of your life to gain in other areas. You don’t have to. You only need to learn how to set priorities that cover all areas of your life.

Setting priorities gives you a sense of what you need to do and when. It will also relieve you of the stress of missing out on an important task. You will have free time to relax and develop a focus on the next task.

Unleash Your Creativity

Understanding what you need to achieve your goals will declutter your mind and enable you to be more creative. You need a high level of creativity to complete your task. Otherwise, your tasks will become boring and exhausting.

Feel a Sense of Success

Anytime you tick a box or cross off a task you have accomplished on your list, you will have a sense that you are moving in line with your life mission. Every completed task takes you forward, while every missed deadline moves you backward. Setting priorities will build the confidence you need to take on bigger goals and responsibilities.

5 Questions to Help You Set Priorities

Brian Tracy, a well-known motivational speaker and self-development author, recommended five questions[1] you can constantly ask yourself to be certain you are living in line with your top priorities. Here are the questions:

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1. Why Are You Being Paid?

Ask yourself if you are doing what you are paid to do. If you are an employee, ask yourself, “What will I be doing if my boss is present and watching me?

Here’s how to answer the question. List all the tasks you have been paid to carry out. Request that your boss or team leader rank the tasks in order of importance. Henceforth, work on tasks that your boss considered to be the most important. If you are an entrepreneur, prioritize the most important tasks that align with your goals.

2. What Are Your Most Valued Tasks?

Recall that 20% of your tasks contribute 80% of the value to your work. Which of your tasks contribute the highest value to your business?

3. What Are the Key Results You Need to Complete a Task?

Figure out the actual results that you need to achieve in order to perform your job. Find out the most important aspects of the key result areas.

4. What Can Only You Do That Makes a Big Difference?

What is that one thing only you can do that can impact your business or organization positively? Performing this task efficiently can positively impact your career and business.

5. What Is the Most Valuable Thing to Use Your Time for Now?

This is an important question in managing your time effectively. Figure out the most important tasks you should be spending your time on and complete those tasks before anything else.

While these questions can enable you to set priorities that work, here are seven ways you can set priorities to complete your daily activities.

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7 Effective Techniques for Setting Priorities

1. Highlight Your Core Values

What are the things that matter to you, those things that you cannot trade for anything in life? Write them down!

You can create a table that covers all your life aspects: your family, career, business, and self-improvement. Then, list the three most significant priorities in each aspect.

Once you have done that, allocate 80% of your time to accomplishing your top priorities. You can complete other tasks that are less important with the remaining time.

2. Align Your Schedule With Your Core Values

Your daily schedule should revolve around those values that you cannot compromise. How much time you allocate for each task reveals what your priorities are. People often spend time on things that don’t count while losing sight of what’s truly important. You don’t have to do it all; you can delegate menial activities while you focus on tasks that demand your skills and experience.

3. Identify Urgent Tasks

The Eisenhower Matrix brought to fore the significance of setting priorities. The matrix showcases your urgent and important tasks, helping you label the things that can’t wait.

Some tasks, such as sending emails or completing your reports, should take the upper part of your list because an uncompleted report can delay your presentation with your boss. It’s important to find out your urgent tasks and complete them as soon as possible.

Eisenhower recommended that you delegate that which is “urgent and not important” while you focus on the things that are “urgent and important.”

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4. Analyze Which Are Your Most Productive Days

Each day comes with its meaning and purpose. One of the best strategies is to find out the particular day you are always at your best. It could be a day off from work or weekend. Once you have made this discovery, attempt the most urgent and important tasks on your list as much as you can on this day.

5. Prepare Ahead

How do you plan? Highlight those tasks that may be on your list for the next day at the end of each day. Creating a list for the next day will give you the sense that you are making progress in life. You can wake up the next day to work on the priorities you have already set confidently.

6. Know That Setting Priorities Is a Skill

No one is born with prioritization skills. It takes learning and constant practice to become perfect. Once you set priorities over time, you will build the ability into a skill set. When it becomes a skillset, you will see the evidence in your life and family.

7. Create a Timeline

Set a timeline when prioritizing your tasks. You have to be realistic when setting priorities. Avoid stacking your priorities; instead, spread them over a specific time frame.

Building a timeline for some specific priorities will eliminate the stress of being under pressure when they eventually become urgent. While some people function better under pressure, many don’t. Therefore, create a timeline and spread your tasks over it, from the most difficult to the simplest.

Bonus: Eliminate Distractions

Distractions are important enemies you need to deal with when you need to achieve your set priorities. Limiting distractions will enable you to focus on what you have set your mind to do. It takes focus to achieve your goals in life.

Take these steps to eliminate the threats to your focus and productivity:

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Turn off Social Media Notifications

You cannot do without your smartphone, but you can manage how you use them. Shut off your social media platforms when you are busy or spending time with important people in your life. Every time you are under pressure to check your notifications, switch off your phone or put it in another room and focus.

Take a Break

Your body is designed to go on breaks. Do not deny yourself that opportunity to renew and refresh your mind. Maximize your break time to do things that give you joy and happiness.

Take Care of Your Body

Physical health plays a crucial role in achieving your set priorities. Exercising and eating healthy food can help you stay fit to accomplish your goals

Complete the Most Difficult Task First Thing in the Morning

You are at your best when you have just woken up. It is reasonable to get those tasks that you dread off your list immediately. This will enable you to free up more productive time later in the day.

Do Away With Toxic People

Toxic people are those who have unhealthy habits. Staying around them can drain you of the strength and motivation you need to keep attaining your goals. Rather, surround yourself with productive, ambitious, and focused individuals. According to Jim Rohn,[2]

“You are the average of five individuals you hang out with.”

Final Thoughts

A sure way to stay focused and productive is to take consistent actions that are in line with your goals. The ability to set priorities that work is highly significant to help you become more successful.

List your core values and match them up with your daily schedule. Then, figure out your most important tasks and do them when you are at your best. Don’t forget to hang out with people that will constantly remind you of your goals. Set priorities, focus, and repeat the process.

More Tips on How to Set Priorities

Featured photo credit: Firza Pratama via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Brian Tracy International: 5 Key Questions For Setting Priorities
[2] Goodreads: Jim Rohn Quotes

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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