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Published on March 31, 2021

A Stress-Free Way To Prioritizing Tasks And Ending Busyness

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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.

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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:

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  • 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.

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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.

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    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

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    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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