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7 Proven Techniques to Set Priorities That Work

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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.

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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 January 5, 2022

The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

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The 5 Fundamental Rules Of Working From Home

Suppose you finally took the plunge: resigned your corporate job, decided to follow the passion of your life and (by lack of a new office space, of course), you started to work from home. Welcome to the club! Been there for a few years now and, guess what, it turned out that working from home is not as simple as I thought it would be.

It certainly has a tons of advantages, but those advantages won’t come in a sugary, care free, or all pinky and happy-go-lucky package. On the contrary. When you work from home, maintaining a constant productivity flow may be a real challenge. And there are many reasons for that.

For instance, you may still unconsciously assimilate your home with your relaxation space, hence a little nap on the couch, in the middle of the day, with still a ton of unfinished tasks, may seem like a viable option. Well, not! Or, because you’re working from home now, you think you can endlessly postpone some of your projects for ever, since nobody is on your back anymore. You’re your own boss and decided to be a gentle one. Fatal mistake. Or…

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OK, let’s stop with the reasons right here and move on to the practical part. So, what can you do to squeeze each and every inch of usefulness and productivity from your new working space and schedule (namely, your home)? What follows is a short list of what I found to be fundamentally necessary when you walk on this path.

1. Set Up A Specific Workplace

And stay there. That specific workspace may be a specific room (your home office), or a part of a room. Whatever it is, it must be clearly designed as a work area, with as little interference from your home space as possible. The coexistence of your home and work space is just a happy accident. But just because of that, those two spaces don’t necessarily have to blend together.

If you move your work space constantly around various parts of your house, instead of a single “anchor space”, something awkward will happen. Your home won’t feel like home anymore. That’s one of the most popular reasons for quitting working form home: “My home didn’t feel like home anymore”. Of course it didn’t if you mixed all its parts with your work space.

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2. Split Work Into Edible Chunks

Don’t aim too high. Don’t expect to do big chunks of work in a single step. That was one of the most surprising situations I encountered when I first started to work from home. Instead of a steady, constant flow of sustained activity, all I could do were short, compact sessions on various projects. It took a while to understand why.

When you work in a populated workspace, you behave differently. There is a subtle field of energy created by humans when they’re in their own proximity, and that field alone can be enough of an incentive to do much more than you normally do. Well, when you’re at home, alone, this ain’t gonna happen. That’s why you should use whatever productivity technique you’re comfortable with to split your work in small, edible chunks: GTD, pomodoro.

3. Work Outside Home

In coffee shops or other places, like shared offices. It may sound a little bit counterintuitive, to work outside your home when you’re working from home. But only in the beginning. You’ll soon realize that working from home doesn’t mean you have to stay there all the time. It basically means your home is also your office and you’re free to go outside if you want to.

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I know this may not apply to all of the “work from home” situations, but for those related to information processing, when all you need is a laptop an internet connection, that usually works beautifully. It adds a very necessary element of diversity and freshness. It can also be the source of some very interesting social interactions, especially when you have to solve all sort of digital nomad situations.

4. Go Out!

Working from home may be socially alienating. After almost 3 years of doing it, I finally accepted this as a fact. So, apart from balancing your home time with consistent sessions of working outside of your home, you should definitely go out more often. Our normal work routine, the one that is performed in an office, that is, makes for an important slice of our social interaction needs. Once you’re working from home, that slice won’t be there anymore. But your need for social contacts will remain constant.

So, my solution to this was to grow my social interaction significantly over what I was having when I was working in my own office. Going out to movies, running in the park, meeting for drinks or just chat, whatever it takes to get me out of my home/working space. On a one to ten scale, my social life before was around 3 and now is at a steady 7.

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5. Thoroughly Log Each And Every Day

It goes hand in hand with keeping a personal journal, but this time it’s about work, not personal feelings and experiences. Keep a detailed log of each project and be always ready to pick up from where you left one day or one week ago in just a matter of minutes. It’s not only a productivity enhancer, although it will help you be more productive, but it’s more on the accountability area.

When you work from home you’re your own boss. And, for any of you who are (or have been) bosses, this is not an easy position. You gotta keep track of all the information about your team and of every advancement in your projects. That’s what a boss is supposed to do, after all. When you work from home you have to perform this bossy role too, otherwise you will be lost in your own unfinished ideas and endless project stubs faster than you think.

Featured photo credit: Ian Harber via unsplash.com

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