Feature Illustration by Helga Weber
I do things in order of importance based on how I will feel once everything is completed. I usually aim for the quicker, the better, and with the items taking up the least amount of drama getting the most attention. Then, when I’m done, I reward myself. Always. After many years of trial and error, it is now easy for me to plan a list accordingly while juggling several schedules and accommodating the needs of six others as well as find time for myself. My personal gratification comes from tackling difficult situations and successfully achieving the best possible outcome. Over time, I have become as proficient as I am efficient at attacking a to-do list. Don’t get me wrong, I can wing it with the best of them! I try not to be too organized, not because I can’t do it but because I refuse to succumb to living every minute of my life planned out ahead of time.
Now, back to you. If you are learning to prioritize, you need to be working towards something. You need a goal. Nothing too extravagant, be reasonable.
Should you distinguish between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’ for your goal? No. Sometimes the best way of figuring out the difference between the two is assessing the outcomes when all is said and done. Then you adjust accordingly. What may be a ‘need’ for one person, may not be a necessity for somebody else. Everybody has a different opinion and motive for what they do and how they live. That being said, you feel free to put whatever your little heart desires on your list- after all it is called your list.
Remember, as always, keeping an open mind will always work best. Now, let’s proceed with prioritizing. Yes, this is a process.
1) Sit down and clear your mind.
I mean this in the literal sense, it will allow you to give real thought as to what it is you would like to achieve.
2) Write down a short-term goal. (Finishing a project, responding to all your inbox messages, walking Fido the 5 times a week you promised him, tying up loose ends by the end of your work week, finish all the house chores before bedtime, losing 5 lbs. versus 25 lbs., etc.)
Begin with writing down an attainable goal, as the steps in which you use to meet it will be what will have you claiming victory in the end. Light bulb go on yet? Fill your list with the steps needed to do in order to reach your goal. No more than ten steps max.
3) Time management is imperative. Give yourself ample time to complete each task.
Ta-da! This is where the prioritizing happens. As you are working down your list of duties, check them and put them in order of importance. Begin working your steps and crossing them off the list as you go along. You will definitely begin to feel a sense of accomplishment as you will visually see your progress. Pay close attention to the amount of time you want to spend on each step. You may even want to add a time frame next to each step as this will help you focus.
4) Keep in mind, nothing is ever fool-proof.
Life will still happen around you and that means you may not have control over the unforeseeable. However, that shouldn’t deter you. Keep your focus! Should something arise and you are temporarily side-tracked, handle it and get yourself back to your original mission of working towards your goal.
5) Reward yourself!
Everybody loves to feel appreciated so love and appreciate yourself as well! Once you have met your goal be sure to take the time to acknowledge your victory. It certainly wasn’t handed to you, you worked for it!
Learning to prioritize is not rocket-science, it’s just a matter of proper planning according to the order of importance for which several small tasks are needed to complete one greater one. It is not the easiest thing to master if you are used to living life spontaneously, but prioritizing can still be fun. By organizing and prioritizing you will begin building the firmest of foundations to the brightest of futures- your own. Just don’t forget to praise your efforts- if you put in the work then by all means you deserve to pat yourself on the back. Think of it this way: had you failed or not completed what you set out to do, would you have disregarded your attempt? If you’re being honest, you probably just answered no. So for that very reason, you should go dust off your horn- yes, your horn, you can’t very well toot a dusty horn!- and you my friend, might as well leave it out when you’re done. I have a feeling you will be tooting your horn many more times in the near future for many jobs well done! Good luck!