Become effective through prioritization

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You do never have time to do all things but you always have time to do the most important things. The sad thing is that most people does not know what the most important things are which lead to low progress and results. According to Pareto, 80% of your activity accounts for 20% of the results which also mean that the opposite is true i.e. 20% of your activities accounts for 80% of the results. How would your output be affected if you contineously focused your effort on the the most important things? In order to increase the likelihood of succeeding in life, you need to learn how to prioritize.

I will not discuss the meaning of life but in order to know what the most important things are to you, you need to know yourself well but also know your goals in life (see “goal setting”). Only you can decide what is most important to you but beware, there are plenty of people out there that love to lecture you in this area i.e. telling you what you should and should not do in life. You are responsible for where your are in life and also of the direction you are going. If you do not take this responsibility and prioritize the tasks in your life, other people will do it for you.

 

You will never be truly effective until you prioritize your activities and focus on them one at the time (see “The myth of multi-tasking“).

 

When prioritizing I use the model according to the image below. Tasks that I consider important and urgent is prio 1, task that I think are important but not urgent is prio 2 and so on. I would like to emphasize the word “I” in the sentence “Tasks that I consider…”. This is why you really need to know what is important to you otherwise you will not be able to do effective prioritization.

 

I always start my working day by prioritizing my tasks so I know what I will focus on during the day. Of course it do come days where I have prioritized my day but halfway in a critical situation occur that require my immediate attention and ruins my daily plan and then I do not stubbornly say “I will not do this until tomorrow because I have not prioritized it yet”. Some flexibility is needed but you should strive to be proactive and not reactive. Some might say that “it is no use to plan since it will be changed anyway”, SO WHAT!?!? The plan itself is not important, you are in control of the plan and you decide if it should be change or not.

 

  • Prio 1 is the “Fire extinguisher” approach i.e. a task that need to be attended to now and will affect you and/or your business badly if it is not taken care of immediately.
  • Task that are important but not urgent is Prio 2. Here you work proactively with tasks that will really make a difference. This could be e.g. strategic plans, education etc.
  • Prio 3 is typically things that perhaps is important to other people, but not important to you. It is this ringing phone that gives a feeling of urgency but in fact most often is not really so urgent. I try not to be interrupted by incoming emails and/or phone calls when working on an important task and it may be a though challenge to sometimes reject others requests but in order to say “Yes” to the most important tasks you need to say “No” to other tasks. 
  • Prio 4 includes totally worthless tasks that are neither important nor urgent. I could be extensive watching TV, coffee breaks etc. What, is the coffee break important to you in order to strengthen relationship with your colleagues and get some rest? Then it is not a prio 4 by definition!!!
This approach has helped me immensely and I hope that people will at least try the model for a few weeks to see if it serves them or not.

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