How To Prioritize What Is Really Important To You In Your Life
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Setting priorities is a matter of deciding what is very important. In this case, “important” means significant to you. What activities and roles give your life meaning? These are the components of your life where you would like to succeed the most.
Not everything in your life can be a priority. Many important things will compete for attention over your lifetime, but there are not enough hours in anybody’s lifetime to give attention to everything that could potentially be a priority. Determining your basic priorities is a key exercise in moving toward more efficient use of your time. Your basic priorities provide a means for making time choices, helping you decide where it is important to invest yourself and where you are able to let go.
On a daily basis, you also have to learn to set task priorities.
Prioritizing tasks includes two steps:
• Recognizing what needs to be done
• Deciding on the order in which to do the tasks
How do you determine what work needs to be done? For the most part, it relates back to your basic priorities. To be efficient in your time use, you have to weed out the work that does not fit with your basic priorities. Learn to say “no” to jobs that look interesting and may even provide a secure sense of accomplishment but do not fit with your basic priorities.
You also have to be able to separate out the tasks that require busywork that tends to eat away at your time. Many tasks that fill your day may not really need doing at all or could be done less frequently. Task prioritizing means working on the most significant tasks first regardless how tempted you are to less significant tasks out of the way.
Certain skills help in using time effectively. Most of these skills are mental. While it is not necessary to develop all of the skills, each contributes to your ability to direct time usage.
Time sense is the skill of estimating how long a task will take to accomplish. A good sense of time will help you be more realistic in planning your activities. It helps prevent the frustration of never having quite enough time to accomplish tasks.
To increase your time sense, begin by making mental notes of how long it actually takes to do certain routine tasks like getting ready in the morning, running a load of laundry or delivering your child across town to baseball practice.
Goal setting is the skill of deciding where you want to be at the end of a specific time. Goal setting gives direction to your morning, your day, your week and your lifetime. The exercise on deciding your lifetime priorities is a form of goal setting. Learn to write down your goals.
If you are like most people, goals are just wishes until you write them down. Keep your goals specific, as in “weed the flower beds in front of the house” rather than “work on the yard.” Keep your goals realistic or you will continually be frustrated by a sense of failure.
Standard shifting is adjusting your standards as circumstances change. Your standards are what you use to judge whether something is good enough, clean enough, pretty enough, done well enough.
Perfectionists have very high, rigid standards, and they have trouble adjusting to the changing demands or circumstances of their life. Develop the ability to shift standards so you can be satisfied with less than perfect when your time demands are high, instead of feeling as if you are somehow falling short.
Time planning is outlining ahead of time the work you need to be done in a specific period. Sometimes time planning is as simple as writing out a “To Do” list to ease you mind from holding on to too much detail.
At particularly stressful times, the “To Do” list may expand to include a more specific calendar of when tasks will be done. While a detailed time schedule can be too confining to use all of the time, it is a good way to take the pressure off at exceptionally demanding times.
Recognizing procrastination is a skill in itself because procrastinators can do an incredible job of hiding their procrastination from themselves. Procrastination is needlessly postponing decisions or actions.
You might disguise the procrastination response with an excuse like waiting for inspiration, or needing a large block of time to concentrate with your full attention, or needing more information before tackling a project.
It takes skill to differentiate between procrastination excuses and legitimate reasons for delaying a decision or action. Without the ability to recognize when you are, procrastinating there is little chance of overcoming this immobilizing habit.
10 Tips That Helped Me To Prioritize My Life
Each of these techniques can help you in getting closer to your goal of becoming more effective with your time:
1. Assume ownership of your time
Most individuals would be surprised if somebody reached in their wallet without asking and helped themselves to the money found there. But how different is that from letting other people help themselves to your time? Take possession of your own time and do not allow other people to make commitments of your time without your permission. It is not selfish to keep other people from consuming your time. Give your time freely when you want but do not make the mistake of undervaluing this resource, or feeling guilty when you do not allow other people to waste it. Think of a time lately when somebody wasted your time. How could you have dealt with the situation better?
Continually check yourself to see that you’re working on the most signifigant things. Helping your child talk through a problem, he/she is having or discussing the day’s events with a spouse or friend may be more significant than getting the dishes done or a load of laundry completed. Do not think of priorities only as tasks that need doing. As you remind yourself to direct yourself to the most important tasks first, you will find yourself letting go of tasks that really did not need to be done in the first place.
3. Learn to say “no”
It is not that saying the word is so difficult. It’s more the feeling of guilt that many women experience as soon as they use the word. Try centering on the significant things that will be done because you used that two-letter word to decline something which was not a part of your priorities. Considering your past week, what are some things you should have said “no” to?
4. Protect your blocks
Think of your day as numerous large blocks of time with the blocks divided by natural interruptions. Where you have control, keep your blocks whole, scheduling appointments and meetings, running errands at the beginning or end of a block instead of in the middle. Having an appointment in the middle of a block leaves little time at either end to tackle a major piece of work. Keeping your blocks of time as big as possible gives you a feeling of having more time that is available.
There is that “D” word. Delegating means assigning the responsibility for a task to somebody else. That signifies you no longer have to do the task, nor do you have to remind somebody else to do it. Being able to delegate some tasks is a way of freeing up some of your time for the jobs that only you are able to do. As somebody else learns to do a job, do not be tempted to take over if they are not doing it quite right. You have to learn that “done” may be “good enough.”
6. Think in terms of buying time
There’s an intimate relationship between time and money, where one can often be substituted for the other. The more hectic your schedule, the more reasonable it is to buy time by selecting goods and services that save you from investing time. Paying somebody to mow your yard or transport your kids to baseball practice are examples of purchasing time. What are some of the additional ways you are able to or do buy some time?
7. Learn to work with your biological clock
People have a peak time of day when their energy is at its highest and concentration at its best. Determine which time of day is your peak performance time and plan your work accordingly. Keep meetings and routine tasks for other parts of the day when you have the choice. What part of the day is best for you to do a task that takes real concentration?
8. Break down big jobs into manageable pieces
One of the sources of procrastination is that some tasks can seem too overwhelming to even begin. Learn to break down a large task into manageable pieces and then begin with a piece you know you can handle. The most challenging step on major undertakings is often the first one. Besides, you will have a greater sense of satisfaction as you complete each individual portion of the task and this can keep you motivated to the end. Think of a major task you have ahead of you. How could you break it down into manageable pieces?
9. Work on overcoming procrastination
Once you recognize that you are procrastinating, the next step is to begin overcoming this time-wasting habit. In addition, procrastination is a habit, a habitual way of dealing with tasks you find distasteful or that make you fearful of failure. When you see that you are procrastinating, make an appointment with yourself to take the first step toward completing the task. Determine exactly what that first step will be and then set a specific time in the near future to begin the work.
10. Reward yourself
Celebrate when a major task is completed or a major challenge is met. One of the problems with a hectic life is that you can be so busy that you fail to notice the completion of a major piece of work. You just move on to the next job without celebrating your previous success. This failure leads to focusing on what is still left undone instead of enjoying what has already been accomplished. Set up a reward system for yourself that serves as both a motivator to get certain difficult tasks done and an acknowledgment that you are making effective use of your time. Be it a bubble bath, two chapters in your new book, or a phone call to a friend, acknowledge your accomplishment by rewarding yourself.
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