Healthier Systems Will Help You Get More Done. It’s not about time. It’s about the systems you have in place. Specifically, three that we’re going to focus on here: Prioritization, time management, and focus.
Prioritizing Work Gets You Out of the Urgency Trap
Most of us suck at efficiently prioritizing our work. Think about it — how often do you start your day with mundane tasks that aren’t even that important? And how often do you freak out about an extensive to-do list where every item feels crucial?
These are both signs you’re not prioritizing well.
Prioritization can be tricky — it’s something that a lot of people struggle to do well. These tips should help.
The first thing you should do is consolidate all of the tasks you need to do into a single list. It’s not important how you do this or where you store your list. You can automate task creation and store your to-do list in Trello. Or you can write things on a sticky note on your desk. Just pick a system that works for you and get all your pending tasks in one place.
Now it’s time to analyze your list. There are a few different ways you can do this.
One way is to sort your tasks into four areas:
Do: Complete this task right now. Good for small tasks that can be done quickly, or for very urgent tasks, like a project that’s due today.
Defer: Complete this task later. Good for tasks that are important, but not urgent.
Delegate: Assign this task to someone else. If there’s anyone on your team who has the free time and the right skills to help you out with a mountain of work, never be afraid to ask for a hand on a task.
Delete: Remove this task from your to-do list. Good for tasks that are not urgent, and don’t add a lot of value, like busy work.
Another great way to analyze your to-do list is by using a priority matrix. Steven Covey offers a great one in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Analyzing your list this way helps you visualize the relative importance of each of your tasks compared to the rest. It helps you prioritize what needs to be done immediately, what needs to be done soon, and what can wait.
And lastly, using the insights you gained from analyzing your list, it’s time to start tackling items. The ones that are most urgent and time sensitive while also being valuable and important are likely where you’ll want to start. If you finish those and have time leftover, you can move on to tasks that are important, but less urgent. The most important thing is to avoid tasks that are not urgent and not important. Those are often time wasters, and are generally better off removed from your to-do list.