Prioritization. It is something that you probably heard a lot about but maybe you still don’t do. So what I’d like to do with you guys today is really talk about what is prioritization, how does it actually work, why it’s important, and how you can apply it to your crazy busy lives so that you don’t get burned out.
Hi, I’m Dr. Sharon Grossman and I’m so excited to be here again with you today talking about one of the many topics that I love to teach — time management. That’s essentially what prioritization falls under. Now the reason why prioritizing is so important, is because when we don’t do it, we become inundated with a million things. The more that we sit at our desk and are surrounded by other people and the computer and emails and all of the things that we get messages from, the more we can easily find things to do. You might have had an idea about what your day would look like and all of a sudden a whole bunch of new things just show up.
I know this happens to me. I’ll be sitting at my desk and I have things that I need to work on and all of a sudden I get an email or the phone will ring or something else shows up or something that I was expecting to only take half an hour is now all the sudden needing to take a full hour. And it’s like where can you fit all this stuff in? There isn’t more time you can create in a day, right? So at some point you got to learn how to decipher, to kind of split the Red Sea between the things that really are important and maybe the things that aren’t. And there are different ways in which people have talks about prioritization so what I want to do today is really share with you some of their concepts and different ways of thinking about it and then you can decide which of these really fit for you.
One of the questions that a lot of times people ask is, “How can I prioritize my tasks when everything is a priority?” Now this is an interesting question because that’s just showing that this person who’s asking the question isn’t really clear about what is most important. And especially that is one of the ways in which you can discriminate between things that you need to prioritize now and things that maybe you prioritize later over other things, right? And we kind of use the word procrastination typically in a negative way but that is procrastinating on purpose. Focusing on the things that you need to do now gives you a clear sense of where you need to spend your time and energy in this moment and everything else needs to go on the back burner. But that doesn’t mean that it stays there. It just means that you need to then create some sort of an order about what comes next and a great way to do that is by looking at importance.
Now I can’t be true that everything is equally important because it’s just not and even though things might be important to you — like you might really love your work and you love your family and you want to spend time on both, you can’t do them at the same time. So even though things might equally be important to you, you have to decide when you’re going to focus on each one. And what this requires is for you to be really intentional because it’s so easy for us to just get carried away and become overwhelmed and just have too much going on at once. When you decide I’m going to work from this hour until that hour and then I’m going to spend time with my family from this hour to this other hour, then when that time comes you shut your computer down, you stop working, you don’t check emails, you don’t answer the phone, and you focus on your family. That’s a way of prioritizing your family when it’s family time and prioritizing your work when it’s work time. And then you don’t have to get burned out and you don’t have to feel guilty about switching from one to the other because you’re making time for both if both of those things are important.
So thinking about things in terms of importance is pretty obvious right and I found this quote online that says, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
It’s pretty clear that if something is not as important, we should have be focusing on it as something else that we have on our plate that is more important. But what about thinking about importance versus urgency. This is something that Stephen Covey talks about and a quote from him says, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” So it’s important to make that distinction not just in terms of what’s important and what’s not important, but between what is important and what is urgent and then asking yourself, “What would happen if I focus on this urgent matter and procrastinated on this important matter?”
So even just going through your list of tasks and identifying:
- What’s important?
- What’s less important?
- What is urgent?
- What is important and urgent?
- What is important and non-urgent?
- What is unimportant and urgent?
- What is unimportant and non-urgent?
So those are kind of the ways in which Covey talks about — it’s like splitting your tasks up into those different quadrants and that helps you prioritize what to focus first, second, and third, right? And basically what he says is for tasks that are neither important or urgent that you just don’t do them because — think about it: when we focus on those things, it really takes time away from other things that we could be doing.
Another factor to consider when you are thinking about prioritizing is not just about importance and urgency, but I also want to have you think about another aspect of this equation and that is things that you really enjoy.
So I found this quote that is speaking a little bit to that and it says, “Persistence. Perfection. Patience. Power. Prioritize your passion. It keeps you sane.” And you don’t necessarily have to be totally passionate about something in order to prioritize it, but sometimes it’s really just because you enjoy it. It might be that you come home and you decide, “You know it’s not really important for me to watch Netflix but I enjoy it and that’s good enough right” or “I enjoy drawing or dancing or playing football” or whatever it is that you love to do and it’s probably not important in the grand scheme of things. You’re not going to get the next Nobel Prize for doing it but it’s important to you. It’s important for maybe you’re mental health. It’s important for you to just be able to relax, to let off some steam. So you really got to decide how to define the word important but the bottom line is we sometimes jump into our work without really taking the time ahead of time to prioritize, to categorize the tasks that are on our list. So this is really just a reminder that before you sit down and dive into the million and one things on your list and become overwhelmed and frustrated and burned-out, take a moment to categorize what’s important, what’s the most important the least importance and everything in between, what might be urgent of those things, and what do you love to do that you want to do, what are you passionate about and all of these will help you to make better decisions about when to spend your time on things how much time to spend on those things and you hopefully we’ll be able to also eliminate things that really are taking up a lot of your resources that you shouldn’t be focused on because it, again, takes time away from those other things on your list.
So I hope this was helpful and if you want more tips and strategies go to my website and download the mindset toolkit, which you can find at www.drsharongrossman.com and I’ll see you next week.