We’ve all been there – workdays get hectic, inboxes fill up, and to-do lists quickly snowball out of control. In your state of panic, all of your tasks seem equally important and time-pressing. No matter how much you try to plan, life always puts a wrench in those plans. When everything seems to beg for your attention at once, there are several strategies you can utilize to help prioritize and put yourself back on the right track.
Write it All Down
Write down everything you need to do. If the tasks span more than one day, consider making a couple of lists and categorizing the lists so you don’t feel too overwhelmed by the length.
Identify Urgent or Important Tasks
The next step is to assess if any tasks require immediate attention. A great way to assess the urgency of a task is through the Eisenhower Decision Matrix. While you’re at it, take a page from the President’s playbook and remember, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”
There are several ways to order your tasks. You can either order them by those that are the most important, or the most urgent, or those tasks that require the most time. Productivity experts suggest starting the lengthier task first. However, it can also be motivating to check a small task off the list. Decide what option is best for you at the current time.
Assign a Time to Each Task
Don’t be too overoptimistic when looking at your tasks. Give each task just enough time to put yourself under a bit of pressure, so you focus, but don’t try to overwhelm yourself. If you find yourself taking too much time on a specific task, take a mental break to stay sharp. The Pomodoro Technique recommends 25 minutes of work followed by a five-minute break.
Try to block out as many distractions as you can to focus on the task at hand. Although this may not be possible for some distractions, eliminate those that you have control over. For example, try an Internet restriction app so you resist the temptation to check your emails or scroll through social media.
By now you know that your priorities will change, and often when you least expect them to. Take these twists and turns with a grain of salt and start back at the first tip to get yourself back on track.
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