A few mornings ago, I realised I had so much on my plate I didn’t know where to start. I had deluded myself that I will use the quiet summer to get things all straightened and ready to go. Summer wasn’t so quiet, so the jobs I kept putting off were being put off for ‘more important’ things.

Looking back, I am not sure they were more important, just a little more fun or with more immediate incentives. However, the list of things to be done got longer by the day. Further complicated by the fact that I had to reinstall the operating system on my tablet.

Aaarrgghh, where do I start? For my own sanity, I needed to get myself back on track. I am an organisation and planning freak so if things are not just so, it affects how I react to those around me. I hope my approach may give you hope or some tips if you are feeling the same way.

Firstly, I listed everything I had to do or felt I had to do, sometimes as the massive overarching elephant job and often just the little 5 minute tasks. Some of them I could cross off the list as the time had passed and they were no longer relevant or had been superseded by others. Sadly not as many as I would have liked!

This at least stops them rolling around in my head reminding me how much I have to do and giving me a little peace.

Using the 7 habits matrix, Urgent/Non-urgent; Important/not important. I ask myself these questions. If you use similar questions, your scoring system may be different depending on your own commitments and responsibilities.

Is it business or personal?
This is often the easiest way to prioritise in terms of the timing of a task. If it is 9.30am on a Saturday morning and you are working through the list, the likelihood is that work can wait until later (hopefully Monday morning!). This is not about procrastination, but prioritisation.

Is it important or urgent for you or someone else?
If it is important or urgent for you it can often be easier to push that to the top of the list. On the other hand determining that it is for someone else, can sometimes make you feel responsible to get it done quicker and push something you need to do down the list. This is where the next question can tip the balance.

Is it important or urgent for my family and those I care about?
We can often take for granted those who are closest to us. It is bizarre that we can treat strangers better, but this is a good way to push some tasks up the prioritisation list, for those who are important to us. Letting people know how long it is likely to take you to do something and putting some deadlines into your own head, helps with setting expectations, keeping most people happy.

Is it important or urgent for someone you have a commitment or responsibility to?
This is similar to the above, but it may be someone who is paying us for our tasks or someone we work with or a responsibility that is more externally focussed. Again, I can’t dictate who or what is more important, but it can help you to know where your responsibility lies and to whom, at any given time, setting realistic expectations as you go.

Will it speed up another task or kill 2 with one action?
This one I love, if you find a few tasks that are similar and will allow you to kick start other tasks, this should push it up the list. I often group similar tasks together. As we have read many times, multitasking is a mythical ability enjoyed by very few people. Help your brain and energy by grouping like tasks together and crash through them before starting the next similar type tasks. 

Will it progress me towards my business strategy?
This is one of my favourites and it is often the hardest to apply. When I think about my business, I try and break down my focus to one or two sentences that allow me to focus my energy and make decisions. If you can give yourself this definitive focus, it really helps with task prioritisation.

Will it improve my life in any way?
Sometimes, tasks may not have any better reason to be on your list than to improve your health and wellbeing, they need to be done and are often the hardest. For example, your daily workout, putting the washing on. For these ones, you should probably try and create habits for. They become normal life, not a to do. James Clear is a great person to read for fabulous hints and tips on creating habits.

Can I adjust expectations to change the priority
This is simply asking someone if they can wait a little longer for the results of your labour. If you find yourself doing this more than once, you need to start looking at your time management and expectation setting, procrastination may have something to say here too.

Once you have this list, start planning out when you can do them in the order you have set. You may not be able to do everything immediately, one after the other, but once you have scheduled the time, it may allow you brain a rest from worry, which may help with getting it started.

I am a big proponent of putting time into my calendar so I ensure I have the time and a reminder, you may have other suggestions that help you. I would like to hear about them  in the comments, as I am always interested in fine-tuning my productivity.

Tomorrow, perhaps you can take a look at your current to-do list and see how many you can cross off, by applying those questions to it

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