Advertising
Advertising

Published on March 31, 2021

A Stress-Free Way To Prioritizing Tasks And Ending Busyness

A Stress-Free Way To Prioritizing Tasks And Ending Busyness

Winning the game of life is not always easy.

If you’re like the majority of people, you’re probably used to struggling with learning new things and getting on top of your everyday tasks and demands.

For instance, do you regularly find it hard to keep on track with your work tasks and projects?

And how about in your personal life? Are you managing to keep up-to-date with your finances such as your tax returns?

Fortunately, if you currently feel busy all the time and struggle to find enough time to do the things you need and want to do — I have a solution for you.

It’s all to do with how you prioritize your tasks.

Get this wrong, and you’ll always be a victim of busyness; get this right, and you’ll become a master of productivity and achieve your goals and dreams.

So are you ready to find your way out of busyness?

If yes, then read on…

Prioritizing Tasks With the Superstructure Method

Let me guess, you’re probably wondering what exactly is the Superstructure Method?

Well, it’s a fair question, as this method is not something that is typically taught in school or college. (Although, I think it definitely should be.)

Put simply, the Superstructure Method is a way of quantifying the value of each of your tasks — enabling you to quickly and easily put them into an order of importance.

I’ve been using the Superstructure Method for many years, and it’s proven to be incredibly effective and helpful in both my work and personal life. For example, as an entrepreneur with a wife and two kids, it’s essential that I manage my time to ensure that everything work related gets done, so that I have ample free time to enjoy with my family.

Advertising

I remember when I launched Lifehack back in 2005. I created the website to share productivity hacks to make life easier. To be honest, at first, I was a little taken aback by the incredible success of the site. In just a few years from its inception, it grew into one of the most read productivity, health and lifestyle websites in the world — with over 12 million monthly readers. I am sure you can imagine the amount of challenges I personally experienced as the Founder and CEO of such a fast-growing company.

However, where there’s a challenge, there’s a solution!

In this particular case, to help me manage my overflowing workload, I created the Superstructure Method. Not only did this help me get on top of my tasks, but it also helped me to reduce my stress and put my work-life balance back in order. And as you’ll see, it can do the same for you.

But before we dive into that, I want you to first grab the free guide 4-Step Guide To Create More Time Out of a Busy Schedule so I can walk you through the Superstructure Method in details.

Downloaded the free guide and ready?

Here’s how to master your time and accomplish what you want…

The first thing to know is that every task contains three components:

  • Intention: Why you are doing it
  • Value: What benefits this task brings you
  • Cost: What you have to give up or invest to achieve the value (in resources, time spent, etc.)

To be able to identify the right tasks to focus on — and to spend the right amount of time doing them — you’ll need to know how to evaluate them.

That’s where the Superstructure Method comes in.

This holistic method helps you put your tasks and actions in perspective. For instance, if you were writing a book, you could use the method to plan, write, edit, publish and promote your book. To do this successfully, you would need to know which actions to take at each step of the way — starting from your initial idea and ending with your book reaching #1 on the Amazon charts!

I’m happy to say that the Superstructure Method is easy to understand and implement. You just need to follow four simple steps:

Step 1: Start with a Clear Intention

Consider all the tasks you have on hand and think for a moment about why you need to do these.

For each task ask yourself:

Advertising

  • What benefit am I getting out of this task?
  • Will this action help me make progress towards my goal or my company’s goal this week?

To give you an example of how to do this, consider a task such as checking your work emails.

This is a task that will help you keep up-to-date with what is going on at your company, as well as allowing you to see and action requests and tasks allocated to you. It’s a task that when managed correctly will benefit both you and your company.

Step 2: Decide the Task’s Value

The next step is to sort your list of tasks into one of three categories. Where you choose to put them will be based on what your goal is.

  • Must haves: Absolutely critical to achieve the objective. Without it, the outcome is meaningless.
  • Should haves: Important but not critical. However, leaving it out may lessen the impact of the final result.
  • Good to haves: Having it is nice, but not including it won’t have any negative impact on your objective.

Let me bring this to life with an example that you can relate to.

You need to present to your company’s directors on the work your team has done in the last quarter.

  • Must haves: Create a PowerPoint presentation detailing the key tasks and projects that your team has achieved during the last quarter. Plus find time to practice speaking through your presentation with your slides.
  • Should have: Feedback from your team highlighting important milestones and accomplishments from the last quarter. You might solicit this feedback with an email, but ask for more detailed input via one-to-one meetings.
  • Good to have: Time to think about how you want to present to your directors and the emphasis you want to convey. You may also want to spend some time chatting to colleagues to get their input into your presentation.

The next step is to quantify each of these tasks into something you rank using numbers.

You can do this by assigning a number value to each of your tasks. The higher the number, the more important/urgent/valuable it is.

To make this easier to visualize, we don’t use a linear scale like 1 to 10, instead, we use a set of Fibonacci Numbers (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc,) that naturally create a larger interval between numbers.

So, using the example from above, you could choose to order the tasks as follows:

Must haves

  • Create a presentation using PowerPoint (Value 13).
  • Spend time practicing your presentation (Value 8).

Should have

  • Send an email to your team asking for feedback on important tasks, projects and accomplishments during the last quarter (Value 5).
  • Meet one-to-one with team members if you need more detail on any of their feedback (Value 3).

Good to have

  • Time to think about how you want to present your team’s work to your directors (Value 2).
  • Time to meet with colleagues to get their input into how you presentation will look and sound (Value 1).

Step 3: Evaluate the Task’s Cost and Prioritize

Having looked at each task’s priority, the next step is to evaluate each task’s cost — specifically their Time Cost.

Advertising

As I’m sure you can imagine, some tasks are difficult and require extreme focus or perhaps even external help. The complexity or difficulty of a task is reflected in the time required to complete it.

To calculate Time Costs, I suggest you make a rough estimate of how long each task will take. This works best if you split the time into half-hour intervals.

0.5, 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3

I don’t recommend you have a task longer than 3 hours. That’s because any time longer than this is indicative that your task is probably too big and would benefit by being broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Now here’s where it gets interesting…

Once you know the Value and Time Costs of your tasks you can calculate a final score for each task — which will then enable you to prioritize your tasks from highest to lowest.

How do you calculate the final score?

Simply divide the task’s Value by its Time Cost.

You can see this in action in the spreadsheet below:

    Step 4: Schedule the Tasks

    By knowing the priority of your tasks and the approximate time each of them will take to complete, you now have the keys to take positive, productive action.

    And the good news is that it’s really very simple.

    You just need to schedule your tasks on a weekly planner — choosing on which day and at what time should you tackle each task.

    Advertising

    Once you begin following this Superstructure Method, you’ll quickly overcome any feelings of being overwhelmed. That’s because you’ll always have an organized weekly plan that allows you to master your time and achieve your goals.

    And there’s more good news…

    After a while of following the Superstructure Method, you’ll notice that you start to create a solid routine for some recurring task such as having regular meetings and replying to emails. And routines are a fantastic way of saving you time and energy, as they help you automate your tasks and keep you away from distractions.

    For more on the power of routines, check out our article: Your Routine is the Key to Achieving Your Goals

    A New You

    Once you adopt the Superstructure Method and begin prioritizing tasks in your daily life you’ll see BIG rewards.

    These will include a huge jump in your productivity and work output. You’ll also feel less stressed and overwhelmed, which will give you time and energy to be more expressive and creative.

    Just imagine…

    The new you could be getting more done while also having better mental and physical health, and more spare time to do the things you love.

    This is not some fantasy. This is the life I lead right now. And it’s the life you can lead too if you put the Superstructure Method into action.

    If you still haven’t got the free guide about the Superstructure Method, I urge you to download and complete our free guide: 4-Step Guide To Create More Time Out of a Busy Schedule

    The only thing you’ll lose by applying the techniques is your busyness!

    More on Tasks Prioritization

    Featured photo credit: Paico Oficial via unsplash.com

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

    What Is Positive Thinking and How to Always Think Positive Do You Know Your Motivation Style? A Stress-Free Way To Prioritizing Tasks And Ending Busyness How To Apply the Stages Of Learning (With Free Worksheet) What Is A Flow State And How To Achieve It For Productivity

    Trending in Time Management

    1 Does the Pomodoro Technique Work for Your Productivity? 2 A Stress-Free Way To Prioritizing Tasks And Ending Busyness 3 How To Create More Time: 21 Ways to Add More Hours to the Day 4 5 Techniques to Tackle a Busy Schedule (And Create More Time) 5 How To Use the Time Management Matrix To Do What Matters

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on March 23, 2021

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

    One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

    The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

    You need more than time management. You need energy management

    1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

    How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

    Advertising

    I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

    I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

    2. Determine your “peak hours”

    Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

    Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

    Advertising

    My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

    In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

    Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

    3. Block those high-energy hours

    Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

    Advertising

    Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

    If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

    That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

    There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

    Advertising

    Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

    Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

    Read Next