Prioritizing your work life might not seem very easy, when everything you have to do feels important. Taking things as they come, without having a strategy, usually throws you into chaos, where you running a race against time day after day. Eventually, this continuous fight is likely to lead to burnout and dramatically affect your life.
Here are 7 “safety measures” that will hopefully help you fight the chaos and reclaim your productivity.
1. State your core values
Write down the most important things in your life – those that you wouldn’t give up for anything, no matter what.
A simple way to do that is by designing a chart of the most important areas of your life:
- personal time
- family time
Next, you should write down your top three priorities for each area.
Once you do that, make sure to invest 80% of your time and most of your efforts into accomplishing the items on your chart. The rest of the time should be allocated to completing other tasks that need to be done.
2. Organize your schedule to reflect your values
Simple and intuitive, your schedule should be focused around your non-negotiable core values.
The amount of time you assign to each of your tasks reflects your true priorities. Very often people dedicate more time to less important tasks, losing sight of what truly matters. Avoid taking on menial tasks and learn to delegate those assignments that don’t necessarily require your expertise.
3. Schedule each day efficiently
One of the easiest strategies for efficient scheduling is the 1-3-5 method. This means that your daily schedule will feature one very important task; three tasks of medium importance; and five little things.
Filling your calendar chaotically usually leads to unbalanced situations when you have accomplished tens of small things, leaving to the end of the week the most important tasks. That will make you frustrated and unhappy, putting you in situations when you have to give up on some areas of your life for the sake of the others. Usually, you end up sacrificing personal life in favor of your work. Yet, achieving a healthy work-life balance is the only way to live a happy and fulfilled life.
4. Identify urgent tasks
I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent. – Eisenhower
Eisenhower inspired productivity experts to create what is called The Eisenhower Matrix for prioritizing tasks. The matrix uses the urgency and importance values to make your work life easier, as shown below.
Not all tasks that need to be done fast are important per se. However, they become important as their urgency becomes pressing.
Simple things, such as sending an email or filing some documents should win a place at the top of your most important tasks, simply due to the negative consequences of leaving them unsolved. An unsent email could ruin a relationship with a client, which you can’t afford. Therefore, solving the urgent tasks becomes a priority, even when you have more important things on your plate.
However, according to the Eisenhower Matrix, tasks that are urgent but not important should be delegated whenever possible. On the other hand, assignments that are both urgent and important should be prioritized over anything else. That leaves you with those tasks that are important, but don’t have a short completion time. Read forward some advice that should help you organize them.
5. Start with what’s harder
Urgency aside, you will have to find the right order in which to deal with your tasks, to end the chaos in your busy work life. One of the highly recommended strategies is to start with the most important tasks, or the ones that are most likely to deplete your energy. As working hours pass, your brain’s capacity to focus decreases.
Taking advantage of the fresh mind in the morning might be the most productive strategy. Besides that, lifting the weight off your shoulders as soon as possible will give you the satisfaction and the drive to stay productive for the rest of the day.
6. Learn to say NO
Your work life is busy as it is, without any extra commitments that would only waste your time and energy.
For many people, refusing to help a coworker or a friend can be unbelievably hard. If you are one of those people who always gets the job done for the entire team, it’s time to stop and change your strategy.
If being radically dismissive makes you too uncomfortable, you should find ways to still be helpful, without doing everything by yourself. One way would be to (re)delegate assignments to other people on the team, who have the expertise but not as much on their plate as you do. Take the responsibility to check on the work that has been done and help with the end result.
7. Revisit the priorities in your work life
Your work life is a dynamic organism that undergoes continuous transformation. This means that your priorities from five years ago, or even two years ago, might not be the same as your priorities of today.
Avoid doing things just driven by inertia, and revisit your priorities at least once a year. Adjusting your plans accordingly will help you stay on track and feel content.
All in all, prioritizing your work life is not rocket science. It only requires some discipline, correctly identified values, the power to say no and a smart daily scheduling system. Try applying these “safety measures” and you will regain your productivity, without sacrificing your personal life.
If you’re using other strategies, please share them with us in the comments section below.