The emails are building up in the background as I open our accounting programme to deal with the receipts that need reconciling. My phone buzzes and I’m reminded that I need to send out that confirmation form to the client. As I pick up my phone to stop the distraction, I realise that I haven’t booked the travel requirements for the other client who is doing a similar course to the one I just got the notification about. Distractions abound on every side, from within and without, and compete for my attention as I seek to do the next thing.
How do you prioritise?
The first step in prioritising requires is knowing all that there is to do (or pretending it needs to be done). When the world is whirling round in a haze of activity, demands and ever increasing noise, I find one of the most useful things I can do, is get the world out of my head so that I can focus on getting at least one thing done completely. The trusty notebook by my desk is a scribble of yesterday’s organisation, and I turn to a new page, and begin to put down all the things that are fighting for space in my thinking and attention. I even put down the background noises - home and family stuff such as buy dogfood, or take a child to the dentist.
The second step is to look at all the things - some are important, some urgent, others can be stalled, delayed, even not done. One thing - just one - is more important than all the others. I love Fridays, because my one thing on Friday is getting Learning BITES out to our people. What is your number one thing? Put a big red square around it. Turn the page and begin a new list and write that at the top. The way you do it is less important than the action of choosing what is most important. Once done, look again at the jumbled mess of things that were in your head, and choose what is the next most important thing. Continue this process until you have 3-5 most important things. I find this step enables me to have real focus on the first things, as it reminds me that I have prioritised other things, not just taken one and left all the rest.
The third step is to set your list aside, and work on the most important thing. Just that one thing. No distractions, no interruptions, work on it. A note here - it can be really helpful to make sure your “things in my head list” is broken down. In the back of my head presently are the two twenty-first birthday celebrations coming up for our kids. I can write down Arrange 21st, but this is so big I’m scared to tackle it. If I write down smaller steps such as Create a guest list, book a venue, decide on catering… these are more manageable. In a work situation, Open emails and scan for important replies required is much more specific and manageable than Check emails. Keeping your focus on completing the one thing enables you to move forward.
You climb a mountain one step at a time. These small steps take a little time at the beginning of a day, but save me a lot more in wasted and distracted time throughout the day. They also enable me to be a lot more productive. What will you prioritise today?
Here's to your success!