I’ve been pretty quiet here lately, too busy to prepare the launch of my own project planner, the PROJO.
But I’m back, and wanted to share some thoughts about how to prioritize goals and tasks. I’m not going to lie, it’s still something I’m struggling with… so I try to apply the following guidelines to help me set my priorities smartly.
If, just like me, you’re not a Jedi on how to prioritize goals and how to prioritize tasks too, you may find the following tips & tricks useful!
How to prioritize goals
You’ve been thinking of your life goals and have a big list of goals you’d like to achieve some day… But you now don’t really know where to start.
Some of your goals may seem out of reach now. Before you start to prioritize them, make sure to make them SMART. A SMART goal is :
- Specific: make your dream outcome cristal clear
- Measurable: quantify your goal and define an indicator of progress
- Achievable: make your gol challenging yet realistic
- Relevant: set a goal that makes sense to you (and not to your relatives – your goal really needs to be about you if you want to commit yourself to achieve it) or your business
- Time-bound: link your goal to a timeframe and set deadlines
If “earning 8K of passive revenue per month” is one of your goals, you probably need to break it down into smaller goals to make it more achievable. In this example, a smaller goal could be “create one passive revenue stream before the end of the year”.
You can start with a mind map of everything you’d like to achieve in the next weeks / months / years
and then work with it to set smaller, more manageable goals.
Now that you have refined your list of goals, it’s time to prioritize them. Prioritizing goals is a very personal process… So here’s how I do it!
To help me draw my goals roadmap and decide where to start, here are a few questions I ask myself:
- Which goals are the more important to you?
- Are you close to achieve some of them?
- Do some of your goals need to happen in the near future?
Try to decide on 3 big or 5 smaller goals you want to work on. Chasing to many dreams at the same time would probably lead you nowhere close to them.
How to prioritize tasks
Prioritizing is a matter of intention. Each time you don’t know where to start, ask yourself: what can you do this month / week / day to get closer to one of your goals?
When it comes to tasks prioritizing, it’s easy to get confused between what’s urgent and what’s important. So let me give you a quick definition of which is which!
Urgent vs important
Urgent tasks are the ones that need your immediate attention and could lead to highly negative effects if you don’t take care of them ASAP. On the other hand, important tasks are the ones that could have a highly positive impact on achieving a goal or make progress on a project.
The important tasks don’t require immediate attention but are the ones that carry the highest value. The way you assess the value of a task depends on the context. If we’re talking about a work related task, the value will probably be estimated through people or money: the importance of the task depends on how many people can be impacted by your work or how much money can be earned (or saved) completing this task.
Start by collecting all the tasks you’d like to achieve during the day. Create a task list with them. Don’t worry about the order, you’ll take the time to categorize them later.
At this point, my advice is to create 2 separate task lists for work and personal. This way you’ll be able to create a balance between work and personal. This is especially true if you’re a student or working as a freelancer: we tend to focus on work, and have hard time considering personal tasks as a priority.
2. Important or urgent?
- What is important?
Important tasks are the one that can have a direct and positive impact on your progress to achieve your goals.
Try to include at least one task a day that will get you closer to one of your goals. It can be as small as send an email, or as big as register your side hustle as a legal business. You can also include habits as a task. For instance, practising yoga is definitely a task to consider important if one of your personal goals is to reconnect with your body.
More generally speaking, think of the dream evening you’d like to experience: you’re relaxed and happy, enjoying a chill evening, with the feeling that you had a productive day. What are the key tasks you’ve ticked off your list and that gave you the feeling that you’ve made progress on your projects today?
- What is urgent?
Identify the urgent tasks among your list. The urgent tasks are the ones that need your immediate attention. If the important tasks are the ones that make a positive difference when done, the urgent ones are the tasks that will lead to negative effects if you don’t take care of them.
Estimate the effort to tick off the tasks you identified as urgent: if they can be handle in less than 2 minutes, just do them. If they require more than 2 minutes, make sure to find some time during the day to handle them.
If you’re really overhelmed by the number of tasks you have to manage, maybe the Eisenhower matrix is the tool you’re looking for.
It’s a 4 boxes table that will help you declutter your task list and decide which tasks you should cut out from your list. It’s a super useful tool for work, but it definitely works for personal tasks: you don’t have time to mop the floors? Maybe someone else in the family can do it for you. When the benefits of the task are shared, sharing this task with someone is definitely something to consider if you’d like to reduce the items on your list.
3. Create your daily task list
Now that you have collect and clarify all the tasks that had your attention, it’s time to craft your to-do list for the day ahead of you.
Review the list and decide on 3 to 5 tasks you consider important and you want to achieve, depending on their estimate completing time. These tasks doesn’t have to take you hours. If your day is already busy, consider the tiny steps you can take to make progress: scheduling an appointment, sending an e-mail or jot down a few ideas on what has your attention.
Do the same with urgent tasks… And get to work!
Start your day with the biggest, less appealing task. The one you’re more likely to procrastinate if you don’t handle it right away. If you’re procrastinating something because fear is holding you back, try to take a tiny step. Taking the first small step will help you get started.
In my case, as I’m a pro at overthinking and introversion, I’m scared of phone calls. I know it doesn’t make any sense but still, I can’t help myself to procrastinate those for days. So sometimes, I just send an email to the person I need to call to schedule them. Turning a “call X” task into an appointment is my strategy number one to avoid procrastination!
Prioritizing your task lists and goals is key if you want to feel like you’ve achieved something. If you don’t take time to prioritize your tasks, you’ll probably be as busy as usual, but definitely not as productive as you could be.
Taking these 5 minutes everyday to declutter your mind and craft a better to do list should help you make progress on what really matters instead of wasting your energy on tasks that aren’t as important as they seem.
Finishing this post with Ryder Carroll’s Tedx talk in which he explains how we should define our priorities to live a more intentional life. This man is definitely my planning guru, and I can’t wait to have his book “The Bullet Journal method” in my hands!