Get your priorities in order! You’ve probably heard that cliche ever since you were a child. Getting your priorites out of whack is easy, though, when your son’s soccer game is at 3:00, your daughter’s soccer game is at 3:30 (across town, by the way) and the house hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned in three long weeks. In the meantime, the phone is ringing off the hook (and more than half of the calls are sales and marketing pitches), the dog has gotten into the wastebasket in the bathroom, and you realize that you have yet to take out anything from the freezer for dinner. Sound familiar?
Prioritizing has two main components: a mindset and an action plan. One cannot exist without the other, and to do only half the job will have little or no effect.
Setting your mindset. If you have a “firefighter” personality–if your day often consists of going from one “fire” to another and putting them out–start your change in mindset by changing your approach. Many of the “fires” that you are probably putting out may be better left undone in order to concentrate on those things that are the most important. The only way to test this is to stop before you do a task and ask yourself: “do I really need to do this now, or would it be better if I left it undone and concentrated on something more worthwhile?” Analyze your activities to see if you are prioritizing them–giving attention to those tasks that need the most attention–or simply reacting to the tasks that “yell the loudest.”
Developing your action plan. Once you have made the committment to prioritizing as a goal, it is time to put your mindset into action. Use a “to-do” list to prioritize your activities. Sometimes, when put into writing, a seemingly important activity will lose a lot of its supposed importance and can be religated lower on your task list. Get your time management skills in order–they go hand in hand with prioritizing. It takes work before it becomes habit. You’ll spend some time spinning your wheels as you begin to make decisions as to what is important–a top priority–and what carries much less importance–a low priority, but this “experimentation” with your priorities is what sharpens your skills.
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