What would happen if you knew the exact thing you need to do today to move you towards your goals? What if you can say the same thing about every day – you know what you must do when to do them, and you have a plan of how to proceed to get what you want? How would your life look like if you can accomplish these?
I know what would happen – you will bring orderliness into your day, your stress level will go down, you will be more focused, you will be able to accomplish more of the important things in your life (boosting your productivity), you will be able to have more time for fun (spend time with your friends and families), and you will ultimately become happier. No longer will you live your life on the edge, struggling to catch your breath as you go from one activity to another, and the sleepless night you had to endure just to finish up your office work.
That’s the power of priority. That’s what you get for prioritizing your life.
Priority is simply about making one thing or activity more important than another. Let’s say on a particular day; you need to perform the following activities. (At least you are better than most people around, you have a to-do list.)
The power of priority is about putting first thing first, second thing second, and so on. It is about aligning your daily activities/tasks with your values.
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best is often the ‘good.'” – Stephen Covey.
- Know what you want
If you don’t know what you want, you can’t know what is important to you. If you don’t know what is important to you, everything becomes a priority. And if everything on your to-do list becomes a priority, you will find it hard to accomplish much. That’s why you need to know what you want and establish what is most important to you.
This is about you and not anyone else; you have the power and the ability to organize your day based on what you think is important to you. If you don’t do that, other people will do it for you, and they will not make you their priority; it means you will be living with the results of other people’s plans.
“Good things happen when you get your priorities straight” – Scott Caan
2. Put first thing first
Now that you have established what you want, which one is the most important, which is next? Which can you delay for maybe a day or two? Which one cannot wait? Let’s make it practical a little – let’s say you woke up and you are feeling some pains around your neck region. Of course, you may have had other things you planned from the previous night, but all of a sudden, this excruciating pain popped up. Guess what, your health is the priority. You need to go to the Doctor to take care of that pain before you can go about your day.
Let’s talk about money. Most of us have more than two things we want to accomplish at any particular period. Say you want to buy a car, pay off debt, save for a down payment on your first home, take a vacation. You still need to determine which of these different things is the most important to you. Then you will need to systematically plan your day and time such that you will execute on the first item on your list, and then the next, and so forth down the list until you get everything completed.
In my book, time management for working professionals, I wrote about two different techniques you can adopt to establish what is most important to you. It is based on a scoring system.
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities. – Stephen Covey
3. Learn to say no
This may be the most difficult for most people, especially those that genuinely want to help others. Think about it, you have established your plans for the day, you know what you want to do, and when you need to do them, but someone else now needs your attention. It may be your spouse, friend, or colleagues at work. To help them, you will have to abandon what you had planned. Since we all have 24 hours in a day, once you reach out to help, you may not be able to get your stuff done for that day.
The question that we need to answer now is, when is it okay to put others ahead of ourselves? I just told you that your priority is what is most important to you, and I am asking you to put other people ahead of you? Wait a minute, what’s going on?
Yes, it’s okay to help others from time to time, not only because you will also need help someday but also because it is the right thing to do. The best way to handle situations like this is to work with that person to understand the urgency of their needs/requests? Can it wait? If it can, work with them to put them on your to help list. If it cannot, you look into your schedule to see what can wait. If you find such a thing that can wait, then you should take out time to help others.
One great tip that I will share is that it makes a lot of sense to build a buffer in your day when you do not have anything serious thing to accomplish.
“If it’s a priority, you’ll find a way. If it isn’t, you’ll find an excuse.” Jim Rohn
4. Honor your commitment
Your ability to accomplish your priorities depends on your commitment to your plans. If you are fully on board and if you give your attention to those things on your priority list, there is a high chance that you will accomplish results. It is not enough to just make up a list of what you want to do, your commitment, dedication, and focus on those things dictates the outcome you get. If you’re going to empower yourself to accomplish more and become more, you must not only have a priority list; you must also honor your commitment to your list.
“Often in life, we forget the things we should remember and remember the things we should forget.” Anonymous
5. Create a reward system
The purpose of having a reward system is to ensure that you stay motivated until you achieve results. It is about adding fun activities that bring pleasure to you. When you know that you will get some rewards by completing your tasks, you will be motivated to work on them until you accomplish what you have on your list. The reward can be as simple as watching movies, playing games, or indulging yourself with a cup of ice cream. Often, the harder the tasks on your list are, the bigger your reward needs to be. The reward serves as an incentive to pat yourself at the back for a job well done. You earned it; you deserved it.
“Indeed, this life is a test. It is a test of many things – of our convictions and priorities, our faith and faithfulness, our patience and our resilience, and in the end, our ultimate desires.” Sheri L. Dew