When faced with a to-do list a mile long, it’s easy to forget how to prioritise your work. Instead, you just jump in head first and try to get everything done and dusted, all at the same time.
It’s not helping you, it’s not helping your boss (or client), and it’s not helping you achieve anything.
Instead, here are six simple steps to help you prioritise what you need to do and ensure your work all gets done to the best of your ability.
1. Make a list of three things you want to achieve
It’s tempting to sit down in the morning and write down a list of everything that needs to be done that day. All that leads to is a list that never seems to go away.
Instead, sit down at the end of each day and write a list of the three things that you need to achieve the next day. Yes, before you go home. Yes, just three. No, you can’t add one that you’ve already done just so you can cross it off. Three. The day before.
This simple exercise will focus your mind and help you see what really is a priority, and what can wait at least another day.
2. Know the difference between what’s urgent, and what’s important
“But you don’t understand!” someone will wail. “It’s super super important! It needs to be done NOW!”Stop. Think. Does it?While the task may be urgent, is it important? Critically consider any tasks you get given in light of Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important principle. Is the task so critical that failure to complete it will have a massive knock-on effect on the rest of your campaign? Will completing it help you achieve your goals – or is it work that helps someone else achieve theirs?Once you’ve established where the task sits on the urgent/important scale, you can make a decision on where it needs to go on your list of priorities.
3. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good
Everyone wants to produce their best work, all the time. We all want our bosses or clients to turn round to us and say “That was perfect! Exactly what I needed. My eternal gratitude is yours.”Sadly, if you concentrate on delivering perfect work, you’re never going to get anything finished. It’ll never be perfect enough (yes, I know perfect is an absolute adjective and I should really try and quantify it but forgive me just this once!)Understand when your work is good, when it’s great, when it’s almost there, when it’s the best you can do. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and press send.
4. Don’t be ruled by your inbox
“ping! ping! ping!” Email is one of the worst time-suckers of the modern workplace. What is it about email that makes us feel that if we don’t answer those messages NOW, the whole world will collapse? How did businesses run back in the days of mail twice a day?Your inbox doesn’t rule your life (and there’s a blog post for the future). Until then, why not read this short (and, yes, slightly old) post from Tim Ferriss about how you can check your email twice a day and still run a successful business.
5. Cut back on the multitasking
I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask. I’d be monitoring social media on one screen, working on a presentation on another, listening to the cricket on the radio, and discussing the latest project with a colleague on instant messenger. And yes, multitasking does make you feel like you’re busy, but are you being productive?Now I work on my own, multitasking is simply a distraction – a way of procrastinating. I’ve realised that my time is more effective when working on one task at a time until it’s finished (and that’s another reason why the three-things-I’ve-got-to-do list is so important).
6. Don’t be afraid to say no (NICELY)
You’re only human. There are only so many hours in the day. Limited bandwidth. Other clichés.Face it, you can’t get everything done. Sometimes you just have to say no. But there’s saying no, and saying no nicely. If you do have to decline, make sure you do it right. Thank them for thinking of you – apologise – explain – offer a solution (another time, another person?) – move on.
How do you prioritise your time? Any tips for me?
If you’d like me to help you prioritise your communications needs, get in touch and let’s have a chat.
Beaumont is a communications agency based in Lausanne, Switzerland. We work with clients all around the world to change the way they talk about themselves – helping them create engaging stories that motivate action.