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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
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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

    A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up Can’t Focus? The Mistake You’re Making and How to Focus Better 17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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