3 Steps to Better Priority Management

Well if you pay any attention at all to our publishing dates on this blog you will have noticed that we were quite dead for all of November. We had a successful Beta launch for TimeTap’s free version, but it kept us bloggers quite busy on the testing front.

As my mother always said: if you let the horses graze, the cows get thin. So it goes with quality assurance testing and the neglected blog.

This month, however, we’re back and better than ever with lots of great content geared up to help you stay on top of your to-dos throughout the hectic holiday season.

Today we are going to be talking about small changes you can make in your daily routine to make priority management more effective. One of the biggest problems with priorities is that they can constantly shift which can cause you to either feel like you’re always off-balance or like you’ll never get through it all. By following some of the small steps listed here, you’ll start feeling like you’re managing your priorities as oppose to your priorities managing you.

Step 1: Do as Sensei Robbins says, “Focus on Outcomes, not Activities”

When most people write down their priorities, they write down a to-do list. This can be helpful to just ease the burden of trying to keep it all in your head, but it really shouldn’t be used as a guide for your day.

As the great Tony Robbins puts it, “don’t let yourself fail every day.” Essentially, that’s what a daily to-do list does for you. Rarely do we get to the bottom of them. While there are endless benefits of time management, we can’t benefit at all if we haven’t really focused on what matters the most to us.

Thus, get used to asking yourself these questions about what your priorities are so that you can understand the purpose around your priorities to make your focus that much more intense:

  1. What do I really want? Why do I want that?

  2. What is the result I’m committed to achieving?

  3. What activities give me the largest return toward achieving that result?

If I ask myself this question, for instance, I’d be having a much more honest conversation with myself than if I just went about my daily to-do list. What I really want is for TimeTap to get into the hands of the most people around the world as possible and for all of them to find value out of it. While I’ve been doing marketing work for the last several months, I must admit I don’t know the specific result I’m committed to achieving. Is it 20 signups a week? 30 signups a week? Without knowing what it is I’m committed to, I could do marketing activities from here through the end of eternity but never know if I’ve actually achieved what I was looking to.

Before you sit and think about your individual activities to prioritize, focus first on your outcomes. If you know what you want and why you want it, you’ll have greater focus which will fuel you toward your result.

Step 2: Have a set time (or times) each day when you check up on your priorities

Why is it that some of the most gifted people in the world are also some of the most disorganized? Those folks out there with those rocket-scientist IQs will often not remember where they’ve put their pen and spend hours looking for it only to find it tucked behind their ear.

It’s small hang ups like these that cause many gifted people to have an over-inflated view about how much they can accomplish in a given day. Despite how disorganized a person may know him/herself to be, they will estimate how much work they’ll finished based on the best of circumstances and not factor in how much time they’ll lose just keeping up with themselves.

To protect yourself from yourself and some natural disorganization habits, checking in on your priorities once or twice a day at a set time is a great routine to get in without it becoming overly burdensome.

I recommend looking at your priorities in the morning before checking your email. I also recommend putting “check my email” on your priority list so that you can rank it against the other things you have to get done. You can then re-visit and check off your priorities throughout the day as you complete them, or you can just re-visit them again after lunch to assign yourself a task for the rest of the day.

I would then recommend taking a quick moment at the end of the day not to look at your priorities but to write down your priorities for the next day. This will be the list you visit the following morning.

(P.S. if you want to kno what your productivity style is, check out our Time Management assessment)

Step 3: Write it all down in one place, not in multiple notebooks

One thing that used to drive me insane was how many notebooks I would have going on at once. I would have fresh idea that I just had to jot down and instead of pulling out the notebook I’d already started (half-filled with other ideas I just had to write down), I would start an entirely fresh notebook.

At the moment of writing an idea down, this seems like a perfectly acceptable habit. “I’ve got to get this out of my head before I forget it! Screw finding that other notebook! Just hand me a new one!”

It’s only after the fact that this turns out to have disastrous effects. After moving 3 times in one year, I could not tell you where all my notebooks full of things I want to get done (along with the step by step playbook of how I want them done) are.

I am in an effort to curb this habit, but a word of advice for anyone who has fell prey to the same line of thinking: you will pay the consequences. Get a notebook that is small enough to carry around with you but large enough to not lose and fill it up! Do not start a new one until that one is finished and date your entries.

As with anything, the more your focus on becoming a great priority manager, the better you will get at it. If you want to get through your priorities, your first step (as Mr. Robbins so aptly puts it) is to motivate yourself toward your priorities by understanding the reason you’ve put them on your plate. Next, make adjusting and revisiting your priorities part of your daily routine. Don’t stick to your priorities relentlessly; be flexible and give yourself room to change. Finally, keep your focused, developing priorities in a central location. Don’t be writing them down all willy-nilly in any old notebook you can get your hands on.

Do you have any great systems in place for keeping up with your priorities? Write to us in the comments below and let us know what they are!