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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

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 May 7, 2021

    Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

    Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

    I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

    Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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    Relocate your alarm clock.

    Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

    Scrap the snooze.

    The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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    Change up your buzzer

    If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

    Make a puzzle

    If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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    Get into a routine

    Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

    Have a reason

    Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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    As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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