Prioritization is simple to understand: first things come first. Yet, taking it to the next level is both challenging and rewarding. There’s nothing quite like prioritization when it comes to achieving goals. Here are 5 ways in which you can master prioritization and unleash your productivity.
1. Create a timeline and stick to it
In most cases, prioritization means you organize various items based on their importance. Tasks, for example, are to be put in a structure. The more important of them steadily stacked on top of lesser ones. Hence, you get a hierarchy of tasks. That’s prioritization.
Add a timeline and you have more complexity and utility. You can use this structure to make sure you accomplish what you need at the right time. That’s a great way to meet and beat deadlines.
Yet, prioritization can also mean that you organize items in order of their causal implications. Some items are more important because you need them to move further. You might have a busy day at work, but you need to tackle the issue of getting there first. Some things, albeit trivial, tedious or simple, are inherent priorities. Hence, you have this whole thing to consider. What should you start with. And what should go last.
2. Keep your to-do lists
Priorities are not necessarily where you start. Quite often, the most important thing on your list might be at the end. Hence, you do lists. After all, we’ve all heard about having a “list of priorities.” It’s because, to many, prioritization is all about making up lists. Even though to-do lists will never work by themselves.
In fact, some say that to-do lists are a great way to procrastinate. At least when you’re not backing them with action. They can be a great way to cleverly set up your day. But there’s more to this, really. Lists help you understand all about what you’re facing. And, much like mind maps, they offer an unrehearsed freedom. One that carries over to your creativity and problem solving.
It’s important to realize that lists are not at the core of prioritization. Nor are mind maps or other such tools. True prioritization is an approach to getting stuff done. And you can use true prioritization with a few core principles.
3. Plan in reverse
You’d think that prior planning means that you start with what’s first. Most often, however, you should make what comes last a priority. For example, if you’re on a journey, the end-game is the destination. You should make your first step with a clear vision of your final one. Yet, often you might stray from your “A to B” path. There might be some reason you should reach some other point. After all, straying off the beaten path may often pay off.
Think about it another way. You can’t reasonably expect different outcomes for the same actions. But you can expect different outcomes with a different path. Or better outcomes by taking a step off the beaten path. Prioritization is not about reaching a certain destination in a certain matter.
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Rather than defining where you should be going it’s defining where you should be reaching. The difference, however subtle, is in the attitude. Hence, you should begin with the end in mind. It’s rather stereotypical by now. Owing to the success of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Let’s reverse-engineer it for a bit.
Planning in reverse means thinking about what you wish to accomplish. And that always includes thinking about the next step. In fact, that’s another way to be productive and avoid burnout. If your plan is to achieve goal X, you should think what comes after X. Just so you can cover the next logical development. Because if you don’t think of the next step, your strategy will under-deliver. This allows you to control your work time. Finally, prioritization means that you know what you have to achieve and where to put your best efforts. However, you can’t do it without setting goals.
4. Set your goals
You’re clear about what it is that you want to achieve. And you figured out what you will do next. By now, you already know what your next move is and you’re in the right gear. It’s time to reach that milestone.
Now fragment that significant accomplishment into strategic steps. That’s goal setting 101 for you. Identify top items that support your main priority. It’s what you need to accomplish, in the right order. Now it makes sense to .
Prioritization is all about setting goals. And that’s because goal setting works. It helps you fight exhaustion at work. If you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you can better focus your efforts. In effect, this also allows you to avoid distractions and get more work done. Ultimately, prioritization has to do with being able to do it.
5. Use a gamification system
Prioritization is self-motivated work gamification. You can stack tasks, set goals, and then fragment them into bits. Each bit is achievable and you can push through and do all of them. Why? Because the right type of motivation makes it possible.
Everything is possible. Just as long as you have the right motivation and master prioritization. But getting motivated is hard. Most people would expect that prioritization in itself is enough. It seldom is. In fact, having the energy to push through all requires intrinsic motivation. And this goes further and you can apply it to .
To gamify work around set goals, consider using micro-goals. These are self-defined whilst functional at the same time. They’re the limit of what you can do in one go that still means something from a project perspective. For example, finishing up a report. Or writing an email. Anything you can accomplish in a relatively short amount of time. Now give yourself a small reward.
Put a poster on the wall next to which you sit and mark a small “+”. Add a special ritual of sorts whenever you complete a minute task. Perhaps even go as far as sharing your status with the team. We’ve covered strategic breaks previously and they too can be used as a reward.
Basic gamification means that you have tasks and rewards. It also means that completing groups of tasks unlocks further challenges. It is, after all, prioritization in reverse. And you can add layers upon layers of wondersome complexity.
Finally, consider this. Prioritization is being smart about your work. And being smart about your work is a great idea in this day and age. With automatization around the corner, knowing what to focus on is more important than knowing how to focus.