Every day, before you start work, ask yourself “What is the most important thing I need to do today?” Make sure you do that.
Overwhelm is all too common at work – we’re all being asked to do more with less, quicker. To avoid chronic stress and anxiety that accompany overwhelm, it’s essential to prioritize effectively to ensure the most important tasks get the bandwidth needed – the ones that actually get meaningful things done to advance your progress to your business goals.
One simple but incredibly effective tool is to stop before jumping into the stream of “today’s urgent stuff” and ask yourself “What is the most important thing I need to do today?” Do that first. It might mean turning off notifications for a while, which can feel highly uncomfortable, but it avoids the pit of being sucked into the latest in an inevitably endless series of demands.
It’s also important to be realistic about how much work you can get done in a day. Trying to fit ten pounds in a five pound bag day after day is not sustainable (ask me how I know this). It’s crucial to cultivate the habit of focus – focus completing a few key tasks each day and over time, the momentum builds and you will make progress towards your goals.
Tips to Prioritize Work
If you’re struggling to prioritize your work, here are a few tips:
- Pull back from the tyranny of the urgent before you start the day (or the night before if that’s how your brain works) and make a quick list of all the tasks that you need to complete. Just getting the visual list helps focus.
- Estimate time blocks needed and whether you can subdivide bigger ones.
- Ask yourself which items have the greatest consequences if they are, or are not, completed today.
- Delegate anything possible
- Prioritize the tasks YOU need to do accordingly – it helps balance urgent with strategic/important.
- Revisit all of the above as things change during the day – frequent re-prioritization is very helpful in not getting stuck in the weeds. Five minutes to re-orient a few times a day does wonders.
How does this relate to hiring?
When you’re hiring employees, it’s important to investigate how they prioritize their work to avoid burnout and spillover stress. Total group productivity is affected by each individual, and a bright, knowledgeable, likable but poorly organized employee will sabotage your results as well as generate frustration from others on your team whose work depends on theirs. You can help your team prioritize their work by clearly communicating goals and priorities yourself, and revisiting as needed – many small course corrections are much better than one large one. This approach also avoids the whiplash of constant reactive responses to urgent deadlines.