5 Ways To Effectively Prioritise Your Time

Time is precious, so it is important to make the most of each day.

Learning how to prioritise your usage of time is one of the best strategies for doing so.

Prioritisation helps you focus on the things that matter — dramatically improving your productivity and helping you complete your most important tasks as soon as possible.

This post will share 5 useful strategies to help you improve how well you prioritise time.

#1 – Set clear goals and track them with todo lists

Having clear, well-defined goals is essential for prioritising.

Setting goals makes it simple to identify the tasks are the most important in terms of work, personal development and social engagements.

Todo lists can be used to track those goals and the tasks that are associated with them.

One of the best ways to use todo lists is by following David Allen’s Get Things Done (GTD) methodology.

It is a 5-step strategy that will make it much easier to prioritise your time.

It works as follows:

Step 1: Make a master list of all goals and tasks

Start by creating a “master list” of all of the tasks that you need to complete.

This includes research ideas, errands, family obligations, todo lists, recurring tasks, work projects, self-improvement tasks, and whatever else you need to do.

Use whatever tools you are comfortable with to create this master list – a notepad and a pen, a Word document, or a software application like Omnifocus.

Step 2: Clarify the list and create actionable chunks

Review your master list and look for any goals or tasks that are too vague or overwhelming to immediately take action on.

A goal like “Spend time working out” isn’t easily actionable because you didn’t specify what that means.

Does it mean riding a bike for 2 hours or does it mean walking around the block for 10 minutes?

Next to “Spend time working out” write a specific activity with a duration attached to it.

There may also be complex goals that need to be dramatically chunked down.

A goal like “Build a successful eCommerce business” will have dozens of tasks attached to it.

Identify the initial actions you need to perform to reach that goal and write them next or underneath that line.

Some very large projects will require their own page of actionable tasks.

As you review the master list, if you notice any tasks that could be accomplished in less than 2 minutes, perform them immediately.

If you see any tasks that can be delegated to others, delegate them immediately.

Step 3: Organise your master list

Organise each of the actionable tasks according to their due date, priority, and category.

This will help you prioritise tasks and link tasks together – so you can perform several similar tasks around the same time.

Step 4: Review the list again

Take another look at your completed master list.

See if there are any tasks that need further clarification or tasks that can be performed immediately.

Step 5: Get to work!

Choose a high-priority action and get to work.

Ideally, choose a high-priority task that can be accomplished in the amount of time you have available.

Your list should be packed full of bite-sized tasks that you can start on immediately.

Check off items as you finish them and get into the habit of reviewing your master list daily.

 #2 – Try the Pomodoro technique

If you struggle to prioritise your time because of distractions, give the Pomodoro technique a try.

This method uses 25 minutes slots of focussed work time (a Pomodoro), which are followed up by a 5 minute breaks.

After four Pomodoros have been completed, you can take a longer break.

This technique forces you to focus on your current priority for a set period, helping you to complete it much faster.

You can also adjust the Pomodoro lengths until you find a work/break duration that works for you.

There is some research that suggests a 52-minute work and 17-minute break routine is ideal for productivity of office workers.

Use a smartphone to track your Pomodoros or better still, get a Pomodoro app for your computer or phone.

#3 – Use the concept of flow

“Flow” is a mental state where a person becomes fully immersed in the activity they are performing.

While in this state, you will feel “energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identified this state as having the following characteristics:

  1. Complete concentration on the task
  2. Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback
  3. Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down of time)
  4. The experience is intrinsically rewarding
  5. Effortlessness and ease
  6. There is a balance between challenge and skills
  7. Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination
  8. There is a feeling of control over the task

Entering into a state of flow will help you be much more productive and increase your enjoyment of the activity you are performing.

It will make it much easier to find time to focus on the things that are a high-priority.

This fantastic article from Zen Habits identifies the steps that you can use to entering into a flow state more easily:

  •   Choose work you love
  •   Choose an important task
  •   Make sure it is challenging but not too hard
  •   Find your quiet, peak time
  •   Clear away distractions
  •   Learn to focus on the task for as long as possible
  •   Enjoy yourself
  •   Keep practicing
  •   Reap the rewards

#4 – Just say no

One of the keys to prioritising your time well is developing the ability to say no to people.

If you are asked to perform a task that you feel is not important or could be performed by someone else, delegate it immediately.

Don’t fall into the trap of spending large amounts of time doing the work of other people or tasks that are relatively inconsequential.

#5 – Remove distractions from your workspace

Distractions can destroy your plans for time prioritisation.

Take active steps to eliminate distractions like using your smartphone, reading pointless emails, or getting bogged down with meetings.

There are some useful tools available for dealing with distractions including WasteNoTime and Freedom.

Thanks for reading 5 Ways To Effectively Prioritise Your Time.

For more articles on time management and productivity, bookmark the site or follow me on social media.

author: Stephen Coleclough

Stephen Coleclough is a leading international and domestic tax consultant who specialises in solving complex problems. As well as advising on tax matters, Stephen also enjoys exploring topics relating to physical and mental wellbeing. You can follow him on Twitter at SColeclough.


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