Slay the Overwhelm Dragon. Prioritize!
It seems everyone is constantly inundated with a list of tasks so long they can’t keep up. I know I can sympathize with this. Modern life and our connectivity make it difficult to suss out what is truly important and what is just noise. We can’t make your to-do lists disappear, but we can help you understand which tasks need your attention, which you can ignore, and what order you should address them.
Brain Dump Weekly
At the start of every week, begin it by doing a brain dump. You can do this process weekly or on a project-by-project basis. The key is regaining control over your calendar before you lose track of things.
This is a list of all the things on your mind, the week upcoming, even the things that keep falling to the back burner.
We suggest doing this on a computer document or task organizing apps like Evernote, Reminders, or Wunderlist. We’ll be sorting these items in order of execution, and it electronic makes it easier to rearrange them in an easy-to-digest list.
Breathe. Sometimes it’s hard to see the size of the pile of to-do’s you’re sitting on. But never fear. This is just the first step! Next, we’re going to discuss what to do with this list and you’ll have a clear battle plan very soon.
Determine Time-Sensitive Items.
Rank each brain dump item on a scale of 1-5. 1 is least urgent, 5 is the most urgent.
Next to each time-sensitive item, put a date and time deadline. If it’s not time-sensitive, rank it a 1 (but don’t discount it yet!)
Determine Highest-Impact Items.
Rank each brain dump item from A-C in terms of their potential impact, A being the highest and C being the lowest. High impact examples include something that could bring revenue and keeping current clients happy.
These are merely suggestions on the structure of ranking tasks. Feel free to make the ranking system your own!
Assess Your List
Take a deep breath, and take a quick break away from your list. Meditate, get up from your desk, get a cup of tea. Having a clear mind is essential for the next step.
- Evaluate your rankings. If an item is a 5 in time sensitivity and an A ranking in impact, that’s a no brainer! Copy and paste or move that item to the top of your fresh to-do list. Rank each 5A item in order of deadline.
- For the remaining items, get clear with expectations. Is there anything you can outsource? Is there anything you can cut? Do you really need it?
- With any items remaining, sort them according to these terms:
Client relations always come first. Your future is only as good as your reputation.
Possible new clients are your incoming revenue. Prioritize following up with potential leads.
Address metrics coming from above. If you’re having trouble meeting metrics, discuss this with your supervisor in a timely fashion before things get out of control.
Think big picture. If you have a ton of data to input, that new organization technology may not have a deadline but could make that one recurring task easier. Clear time to implement or get help adding this to your office’s workflow. It’s so easy to put your head down and keep plugging away at a tedious task that could become easier if you look up and pay attention to solutions.
Batch similar tasks. If you have 2 meetings slated to occur in one neighborhood, see if you can get them all on the same day.
Come up with a scheduled plan for recurring tasks. Perhaps you hop on LinkedIn every morning at 10 AM for 10 minutes or perhaps spend 30 minutes on that task for fewer days.
Don’t let your calendar get out of your control. Be sure to arrange a consistent time for your own development, both personal and career.
Notice Patterns Over Time
Keep track of your brain dump lists from week-to-week and evaluate at the end of the month. Are you noticing similar tasks coming up that are time-consuming or difficult? Let’s tackle those! Is there a technology that can help offset this recurring task?
Make Your Time Precious
It’s easy to fall down rabbit holes and lose track of time! Set a time limit for tasks that could be never-ending. Chip away a little bit at a time.
How do you eat an elephant? Start at the tail. To-do lists can be never-ending, so become zen with that idea. Assess when deadlines are missed and evaluate what to do next time. Just keep on trucking along with one task at a time.
And remember... you're not a robot!
It seems counter-intuitive, but you’ll be much more effective staying consistent with your tasks slower over time rather than burning hard and fast then burning out. Science proves the most effective people work 52 minutes followed by a 17-minute break. Your office may not sympathize with that schedule, but this fact illustrates breaks are essential for your brain.
Your well-being will also thank you.