The pace and intensity of our lives at work and home can cause us to feel like we are riding a frantically galloping horse. Our daily incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and check off items on our to-do list by each day’s end — seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence.
However, we can consciously change this out-of-control pattern if we approach our days differently by learning to prioritize. Prioritizing requires the courage to do less. It may sound simple, but doing less can be very difficult. Too often, we mistakenly believe that doing less makes us lazy and results in a lack of productivity. Rather than that, doing less helps us enjoy what we do achieve. We learn to do less of what is extraneous and engage in fewer self-defeating behaviors to create a rich life that we truly feel great about.
Doing less for its own sake can be shockingly more effortless and transformative. Imagine having a natural and unhurried conversation in the middle of an unforgiving workday with somebody you care about. Imagine completing one discrete task at a time and feeling calm and happy about it.
In this article, you will learn a different approach that is equally helpful for your personal and work life. The two hemispheres of your work and personal lives constantly reflect on and affect one another, each changing and reinforcing the other.
Every life has incredible meaning, but the fog of constant activity and bad habits can often obscure your meaning and purpose. As you acknowledge and make adjustments, you can once again enjoy how you contribute to the workplace, enjoy the sweetness of your life, and share openly and generously with the ones you love. Less busyness leads to appreciating the sacredness of life. Doing less leads to more love, effectiveness, internal calmness, and a more remarkable ability to accomplish more of what matters most to you.
The Fine Art of Prioritizing
By identifying what matters most, you can allocate your time accordingly. Also, priorities shift with the different seasons of life. Many important things will compete for attention over your lifetime. However, you must learn to identify priorities to enhance productivity, balance, and quality of life.
Determining your essential priorities is critical in moving toward more efficient time use. Your priorities provide a means for making smart time choices, helping you decide where to invest yourself and where you can let go.
Setting priorities is deciding what is most important to you and in what order. In this case, “important” means significant to you. What activities and roles give your life meaning? These are the components of your life where you want to succeed the most.
Learn to Prioritize Daily
Daily, you also have to learn to set task priorities. Prioritizing tasks includes two steps. First, you must discern what you (or someone else) need to do; second, you must decide on the order to do these tasks.
To determine what you need to do, reflect on your priorities. To be efficient, weed out the activities that do not fit within your priorities. For example, if fitness is a priority, you may have to say no to that extra project at work. If you prioritize a work deadline, you may have to refrain from the chats in the break room with your coworker. You get the point.
You must also be aware of the tasks that require busy work that eat away at your time. These activities fill your day and may not need doing; they could be done less frequently or by someone else. Task prioritizing means working on the most significant tasks first, regardless of how tempted you are to get more menial tasks out of the way.
Mental Skills that Help You Prioritize
Specific mental skills help in using time effectively. You can learn and develop these skills over time.
- Time sense is your inner ability to direct time usage. Time sense is estimating how long a task will take to accomplish. Understanding time will help you be more realistic in planning your activities. It helps prevent the frustration of not having enough time to complete tasks.
To increase your time sense, note how long it takes to do specific routine tasks like getting ready in the morning, running a load of laundry, or delivering your child across town to baseball practice.
- Goal setting is another mental skill that will help you learn to prioritize more efficiently. Goal setting is deciding where you want to be at the end of a specific time. Goal setting gives direction to your morning, your day, your week, and your lifetime. Deciding your lifetime priorities is a form of goal-setting. Learn to write down your goals and review them regularly.
Goals are wishes until you write them down. Keep your goals specific, as in “weed the flower beds in front of the house” rather than “work on the yard.” Keep your goals realistic, or you will continually be frustrated by a sense of failure.
- Standard shifting is another mental skill set whereby you adjust your standards as circumstances change. Your standards are what you use to judge whether something is good enough, clean enough, pretty enough, done well enough. Standard allows you to maintain priorities while “going with the flow.” This mental skill set slays rigidity and perfectionism while enabling you to move forward continually.
Perfectionists have very high, rigid standards and need help adjusting to their lives’ changing demands or circumstances. Develop the ability to shift norms to be satisfied with less-than-perfect when your time demands are high instead of feeling like you are falling short.
- Time planning outlines the work you must do in a specific period. Sometimes, time planning is as simple as writing out a “To Do” list to ease your mind from holding on to too much detail.
The “To Do” list may expand to include a more specific calendar during particularly stressful times. While a detailed schedule can be too confining to use all the time, it is an excellent way to take the pressure off at exceptionally demanding times.
- Recognizing procrastination is a skill because procrastinators can do an incredible job hiding their procrastination from themselves. Procrastination is needlessly postponing decisions or actions.
You can disguise the procrastination response with an excuse like waiting for inspiration, needing a large block of time to concentrate with your full attention, or requiring more information before tackling a project.
It takes great skill to differentiate between procrastination excuses and legitimate reasons for delaying a decision or action. There is little chance of overcoming this immobilizing habit without the ability to recognize when you are procrastinating. We have all been there; the key is awareness and the ability to escape it.
Prioritizing is a fine art that changes the trajectory of your life. It can take a lifetime to master, but you can start the process anytime. Once you begin to prioritize, you will be astounded at how many essential things you accomplish in less time. The benefits of prioritizing include living life to the fullest while potentially feeling less overwhelmed, burned out, and mentally drained.
One final note: If the ability to prioritize feels beyond your reach. It is fine. Some neurotypes may struggle with prioritizing more than others. That’s okay because our brains work differently. If that is you, be strategic and get the help you need. There are support systems and people who can assist you in reaching your goals.
Be encouraged; you got this!
Be well + prosper,
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