Prioritizing is essentially knowing what to do, when to do it, and in what order.
This may sound mediocre but it’s not.
Your ability to prioritize effectively has the power to skyrocket your effectiveness and your position of leadership internally and externally. When you know what to do and when to do it, and then execute what you know, you develop inner strength, self-trust, and confidence that will propel you to great heights of success and achievement, personally and professionally.
Success, achievement as well as great leadership are all an inside job. Once you believe yourself to be The Leader of your everyday personal world, you can confidently step out to be The Leader in the world where success and achievement await you.
Let’s look at THE COST OF NOT PRIORITIZING; what lacking in this very important skill can inadvertently bring into your life?
-disappointing others and, perhaps more importantly, disappointing yourself
-hindered business growth
I trust you know how all of the above can quickly and easily derail your project and your self-esteem.
Now, let’s look at REWARDS OF EFFECTIVE PRIORITIZING; what’s in it for you?
-feeling a sense of accomplishment
-increased desire to create, serve, and expand your reach
-the sense of being in control of your time and effort
-clarity of choice and decision-making
-enhanced leadership skills
-personal and professional empowerment
Now, once you dance with this list, your life and business will flourish and prosper in beautiful ways which, incidentally, is my deepest wish for you and all your endeavours! We are but one step away from success (whatever success means for you): believing in ourselves and our ability to attain it!
Prioritizing: an Individual Perspective
So how do we prioritize? What’s the best approach to achieving the goal, completing that project, or developing a viable business or idea? Where do we start?
Most important step is to determine what must be done first. That to me is recognizing what small steps need to be taken and in which order while still keeping in mind the big picture. This means that, in any part and stage of the project, we must discern what’s a ‘must do now’ task, what is a ‘necessary but can do later’ task, and what is a ‘fulfilling task’ which helps us keep the passion and enthusiasm going, especially when faced with tasks we don’t love.
Here is an example:
In order to run a business, one has to have an office, home or otherwise (if one is serious about having a business).
In order to keep that office, one has to pay their utility bills.
In order to pay the utility bills, one has to bring in some income.
In order to bring in some income, one has to have a service or product to sell.
In order to have that, one has to develop some skills and take time and effort to have a useful, valuable service or product to sell.
I think you get the point.
What is important to underscore is that prioritizing is relative to individual needs and intentions. It is you who governs what’s most IMPORTANT TO YOU and why.
For some people, a ‘must do now’ task can be paying for their office space, their ‘necessary but can do later’ task can be creating a program to offer for sale, and their ‘fulfilling’ task would be the process of creating the program or gaining knowledge about how to do it.
For someone else, the whole process of creating the program can be the fulfilling task, depending on their circumstances. If they don’t need the income, as they may be retired or have a full-time job, for example, they are only doing what they are doing for the pleasure of it.
The main thing to remember when prioritizing, in very simple terms, is differentiating between ‘must do now’ and ‘can do later’ items. Once that’s established and depending on the size of your project, subcategories can be created to track progress and to complete the individual task or the whole project successfully.
So, when creating a product to sell, for example, start with the end in mind; what is the intention for the product (outside of creating revenue at this point)? What is the content or function of the product? Then, establish steps to achieving that. This may also require subcategories where you create a list of the different parts to your product and ways to bring them all together.
Always keep the big picture, the final result in mind as you progress through each stage of the production or development process; this helps to stay on track so you don’t get lost in the details.
Are You on Your Priority List?
If not, you’re in trouble.
You must make yourself a priority because you can only give what you have and if you are depleted it will show up in your performance, service, and product creation, however that looks in your case.
Usually, people schedule tasks to complete other tasks and forget to schedule breaks and self-care rituals or activities. Be different and make sure you replenish your body, mind, and spirit so you can share yourself with the world at high capacity. After all, you are the most important ingredient in all you’re doing so take care of YOU!
One more critically important step in making prioritizing a success is planning for days when not all your tasks get accomplished and understanding that life happens despite our most diligent planning, intending or strategizing. Anticipating and the acceptance of things not going according to plan are two of the strongest attributes of a great leader and a highly skilled prioritizer!
Be patient with yourself while befriending accountability. It’s all in the balance between those two attributes where much peace and accomplishment are found. All you have to do is allow yourself to be human; you can be Super Woman (or Superman), but don’t forget to be a human being too. So be gentle with yourself, go with the flow, and keep your own integrity intact. You will be able to do this well with practice, I promise; and it can be fun!
Lastly, as much as you can, bring joy into everything you’re working on. Not every task is joyous, granted; but please understand, joy isn’t found ‘out there’. It’s generated within by what you think and how you feel about what you’re doing. Most people dislike paying bills, for example, and I get that. But what if one could execute that particular task with gratitude for being able to have an office and funds (even if they’re a bit tight) to pay for it? What if one could take the time to appreciate the utilities and see them as a convenience if not a blessing?
I think we all could do a little bit more of that.
Then, feel into your passion and love for the end result, your rewards, for where you’re going or what you’re working on achieving and infuse those into your work and service. This, in my opinion, is one of the best recipes for success.
Know how you tick! Know your limitations and abilities and be very honest with yourself. Many people fail at success or planning or advancing their carriers because they are trying to fit into someone else’s schedules and ways of doing things.
Don’t do that to yourself!
Get really clear on what works best for YOU. Are you a morning person? Do you loose focus within an hour or two? How often do you need to take a break (even a ten minute one)? Do you get easily destructed? How good are you at being your own supervisor and what do you need to stay motivated?
Those are some of the questions you need to answer to get to know how you work best so you don’t get frustrated and discouraged by trying to work a schedule that doesn’t fit your work style.
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION
What To Do & How To Do It?
First, sort out the meaning – your meaning – for what you are prioritizing; what does the project mean to you, what is the reason you are doing it, what is its end result or purpose. This will help you decide what tasks are most important, necessary, or fulfilling.
Then, see what subcategories you need to put in place to accomplish all the major parts of your creation.
Use the above questions for each part of your subcategories and also consider what will move the project forward, what’s the sequence of ‘events’ or steps, and how to best execute those.
Next, use the following list to create a solid priorities table to follow. I believe they are all essential to some degree, depending on your individual situation, personality, and approach.*
- checklists (what you need before you start and onward)
- to-do-lists (overall and for subcategories)
- time management/project management worksheet (to track your time spent on each task, this helps a lot in future endeavors too!)
- set due-by dates and stick with them (please be realistic and fair – (trial and error approach for beginners)
- establish coping techniques for stress management – you’ll need it. We all do and it’s okay so be prepared.
- understand and respect the 80/20 rule; 80% of what we do generates about 20% of results so focus on the tasks that move the needle in the right direction. And be patient! You’ll get there.
- think ahead which means consider the consequences and connectivity of your tasks.
- take time to go over your progress and to review your plan – repeatedly throughout the process.
- BE WILLING TO CHANGE YOUR PLAN if necessary. Flexibility and adaptability are critical!
- be willing to ask for feedback, help, or to delegate tasks if necessary – the ability to allow yourself to do so is one of the most important keys to success.
- NOTICE YOUR PROGRESS AND CONGRATULATE YOURSELF FOR IT (no matter how small)! Create a reward system and celebrate your hard work and dedication. You deserve it!
* If you have a team to manage, you must apply all of those to your team as well as effective communication and other team management skills which are beyond the scope of in this article, but guess what? You can Google it! ;)
In some ways, I think of prioritizing as creating the road map of your project for you to follow so you can confidently and comfortably ‘get lost in it’ yet stay on the path to a successful and satisfying completion.
Please know that the dreams and the desire in your heart are there not by accident. The gifts you possess are uniquely yours for a reason, a very good reason. Combine those with action steps and you are a success!
You have all you need to accomplish what you wish to accomplish. Trust yourself and your abilities by remembering all your prior successes and accomplishments. I’m sure there are many. Let your heart lead you further and further into your own kind of awesomeness!
You got this!
About the Author
In early Spring of 2011, as I sat with my journal at a family cabin, I felt the seed of my creative writing come through from beneath the surface. As I picked up my pen to begin my first journal entry, I felt a feeling of profound peace and indescribable comfort. All was well. I felt I was Home - finally!