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Last Updated on February 15, 2021

How to Master the Art of Prioritization the Right Way

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How to Master the Art of Prioritization the Right Way

Did you know that prioritization is an art? In fact, it is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed with tasks at work, school, or in your personal life, prioritization can bring clarity and successful time management into the picture.

Prioritization involves taking a good look at what you have on your plate each day and figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave for the end. This is a skill that takes a good amount of analysis and clear-headed thinking, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it will make your life easier and more seamless.

How to Achieve Effective Prioritization

There are two approaches to prioritizing the tasks in your to-do list that I often see.

Tackle the Biggest Tasks First

The idea is that by tackling the biggest and most important tasks first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method, which follows this idea.[1]

Once the big things are off your plate, you feel less stressed with the small tasks that await afterward. For some, this seems to lead to a smoother process when trying to get things done.

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Tackle the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily First

Proponents of this method believe that by establishing priorities and tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness after a few quick wins.

If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls, and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

This can also lead to less stress as your mind won’t be pulled in so many directions if many small tasks are marked off your list.

With either of the above approaches, you’ll need motivation to carry out the tasks that you have prioritized. Check out this Actionable Motivation On Demand Handbook to give yourself a boost and get things done.

Your Approach for Prioritization

When tackling simple prioritization techniques, it’s important to go through a few simple steps to prepare yourself to get things done. Here are some tips to get you started.

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1. Find Your Stress Triggers

The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies entirely on your personality, work ethic, and way of organizing your life.

Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks, or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed.

At this point, you need to first discover what will stress you out more. Do you get anxious and stressed when faced with a few large tasks or many small tasks? Whichever causes the most stress is the one that should get done first.

2. Make a To-Do List

Without a to-do list, it’s impossible to prioritize, as you don’t know exactly what needs to get done each day. For the best results, try making a daily, weekly, and monthly to-do list. This will keep you organized and ensure you don’t miss any important work or urgent tasks.

3. Analyze Costs and Benefits

Each task on your to-do list has a cost and benefits that come with it. The highest priority tasks are often those that are high cost/high benefit, but the tasks you should focus on first with your prioritization method are usually low cost/high benefit tasks. This is known as the Scales Method, and you can learn more about it here.

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4. Know Your Peaks and Troughs

I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at a specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming and try to keep my schedule flexible enough that I can adapt.

If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

What time of the day do you often feel most productive? That is the time you should work on your high-priority tasks. The times when you are feeling sleepy or unmotivated are best used for low cost/low benefit tasks.

The Bottom Line

Prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. Most will work for a group of people and will help get them on track.

What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of prioritization rules until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

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If the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

Once you’ve discovered what motivates you and helps you feel the most productive, stick with it until you feel you’ve lost touched with a sense of accomplishment. That’s when it may be time to move on to a better prioritization system for your changing needs.

More Time Management Tips

Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

Reference

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Joel Falconer

Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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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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