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102 Key Principles for Success

Principle 18 - Prioritizing

How do you determine your priorities? Are you good at it? If you're not then read on for some help.

What is more important than prioritizing? If you prioritize well you'll:
  • Reach your goals
  • Make a lot of money
  • Do whatever you want in life
  • Be more successful than the average person
Prioritizing is a key principle for success.

Why is prioritizing so difficult?

It's usually a conflict between short and long term pleasure. Things you should do may be hard or painful. Watching TV is easy, but try to create the next million-selling device. That is hard and fraught with obstacles.

Not knowing the future can affect how you prioritize. If you knew which tasks would bring you success, you'd work on them. So you need to do a rough calculation of the odds to help you prioritize. You could work on building things for yourself. This way if no one wants what you're making at least you do.

Small tasks before large tasks

As I discuss in this book, do small tasks before large tasks.

Balance Your Time

Another issue with prioritizing is you can only do one task at a time. If you want to write a book and throw out the garbage, do the small tasks first. Make sure you allocate time for tasks you may not get to or dislike. I recommend you do the tasks that you don't want to do as soon as possible to get them out of the way. Reward yourself for starting, working some time period or finishing a task.

There are many ways to balance your time but the best is to block out specific times on your calendar for different types of tasks you need to do.

When I arrive at work I first look through all my emails and then reply to the most important ones first. If it will take a while to get an answer I let the requester know I'm working on it and an estimate of when I'll finish. If I'm busy, I'll let the requestor know when I'll get to their task.

Reaching Your Goals

If you want to reach your goals then you'll have to spend time on them, Figure out what your goals are. Then  work on tasks that align with those goals. The clearer your goals the easier it will be to prioritize.

A Little Each Day

Plan your day to spend a little time on a major task that you want to accomplish. Say you want to write a book, then spend one hour a day on this. You can work longer but make sure to get in your one hour. If one hour is too long, then try five minutes.

Too Many Things To Do

Some people just have too many things to do. For those people, a few things to do are:
  • Focus on the important part of the task or a small deliverable part
  • Use the 80-20 rule to help find the most important part
  • Use a list that contains all the many important tasks you'd like to do and randomly select what to work on. Then work on it for some fixed time period of 15 minutes to one hour.
80-20 Rule

The 80-20 rule also known as the Pareto Principle basically says that 20% of the work gets you 80% of the results, so you should be working on the 20%.

Habits

Bad habits can make it hard to prioritize. Find ways to break these time-consuming low-return habits, like watching TV or playing mindless games on your phone.

Big vs. Small Tasks

One way to tackle big tasks is to break them into small tasks. What are the steps to accomplish your goal? Write these down. Now try to order them and then do the first one on the list.

Easy vs. Hard Tasks

One way to tackle difficult tasks is to convert them into easier or more enjoyable tasks.

Turtle Tasks

The famous Aesop fable of the Tortoise and the Hare, is useful. The story is about a slow moving tortoise who races against the hare. The tortoise moves forward slowly but deliberately. The hare knows he can beat the slow-moving tortoise so he naps during the race. He wakes up too late and loses the race.

So a Turtle Task is something that you do that isn't quick but slow and takes longer than the fast method but in the long run, you'll be ahead.

Who's Important

When your co-worker asks for help with his problem, you can be a nice person and help them but you should determine if this fits into your priorities. If your boss's boss asks you for something then work on this first.

Deadlines

One key to prioritizing is to be aware of deadlines. If you have a meeting in an hour and need to prepare for the meeting then the preparation becomes a priority.

Can't Decide

Sometimes you can't decide what to work on. It these cases just randomly select an item from your to-do list and work on it from some set period of time say 30 minutes. If you feel it's not a priority then you can skip it or just work on it for five minutes.

Perfectionism

If you must be perfect you're doomed to never having a list of priorities. Your list isn't supposed to be perfect, just a rough guideline. Do the best you can and change it as needed.

Finish

Finish what you start and don't start what you can't finish. When you finish a book or a task that's one less thing to worry about or to clutter your mind. If you're bad at finishing then try a technique like Finish Then Add Details (FTAD).

If you don't finish things you'll be unable to move forward.

Focus

Having a focus can help as you reduce the number of things you can do. If you've had trouble focusing in the past then pick something small and easy and work on it for a day, week, month or whatever timeframe you can take.

This month is June 2018 and my focus for the month is cleaning, organizing and decluttering. So everything I do should revolve around that. I find it useful to pick a monthly focus.

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