It’s sounds like a simple, analytical sort of exercise, yet it is a challenge for many people. And not for the reasons you’re probably thinking. I’ve got for you today [Oh, that just sounded like the chefs on Chops!] …. I’ve got for you today 7 reasons I commonly hear it’s difficult to prioritize, and of course, I won’t leave you without strategies to try for your workdays.
#1 You don’t think about the money
One of the prioritizing criteria needs to be the answer to: How soon will this project or task grow your business? As Julie Morgenstern has written: How close is it to the revenue line?
It’s not the only way to set priorities, but it deserves to be quite high on the list. Strategy: Take a look at your list: Which tasks can, today or this week, get you closer to a new client? A new referral source? A new product sale? Write down a $$$ sign next to those tasks and that will help you quickly see your priorities.
#2 You don’t break a big goal into smaller steps [or at least an outline, a plan of attack or a roadmap]
“Everything is important.” That’s often true, at the project level. Most of it needs to get done [more on that below]. If you don’t break down your goals and projects into smaller steps, then, yes, everything looks like a priority. Strategy: Use an outline, a Mind Map, a task list, a project plan.
If a project is going to take more than 30 minutes break it down into steps. Now, look at the first step for each of your projects. Much clearer, isn’t it? And a bonus: it’s easier to start. Smaller steps are easier to squeeze into your schedule. Compare that to the magical thinking that you’re going to “find” a “block” of time big enough to handle an entire project all at once.
#3 You’re afraid of committing
Choices, choices. If you haven’t figured out what direction you’re headed in, or you haven’t definitely committed to the project, then you won’t ever see this as a priority. There’s no energy or interest around it. It drops to the bottom of your list. But maybe it doesn’t even deserve space on your list. Strategy: Decide. Close your door. Leave the office. Call your coach. Figure it out: Does this project belong on your list at all? And then return to prioritizing after you know that answer.
#4 You’re afraid of the risk
It’s risky, this big decision and you can feel it. So you turn away from it. It sits on your list, no priority at all, yet exuding guilt every time you look at it. Strategy: Lean into it. What are all the possibilities? How could you lessen the risk a bit? Research? Talking to someone who has done it before? Mapping out a plan? Involving a team? Diving in? What would make it easier to spend time on it?
#5 It’s a difficult conversation you need to have
These will eat away at your mental bandwidth subconsciously, putting a drag on your attention and energy. Strategy: If you were your mentor or someone you know could handle this person/conversation what would that person do and say? Go pretend to be that person and give it a shot. Get it off the list, so you aren’t making it emotionally a priority. That’s not business; it’s emotion. If you don’t know how to have difficult conversations, how could you learn: a coach, a book, a webinar class? Sit with it; create a chart and separate facts from frustration. Script yourself for the conversation so you can practice sticking to facts.
#6 You don’t have a way to organize the work in priority order – a system to keep track
You scan the list and mentally acknowledge top 3 priorities for the day. And then the day gets away from you. Strategy: What system do you use for keeping track of your work? Is there a place you can tag or sort the priorities so they stay at the top? Next, keep the priorities visible, in front of you, so you stay focused on them and don’t get pulled away because you forgot what they were [like when someone walked in your office].
#7 You can’t say “no” easily, so you have stuff on your plate which has been there way too long
“Everything has to get done.” Well, first of all, no it doesn’t. You may have “filler” on your plate. Filler is made up of things you said “Yes” to when you were feeling particularly kind, or less busy, or when your people pleasing instincts kicked in. And then you don’t work on it. Nothing happens, because you got mad at yourself for taking it on in the first place. Strategy: Declutter this stuff. Does it still really need to be done? What happens if it goes away, vanishes without being done? Or, can anyone else finish it or do it instead? Can you renegotiate in the context of new priorities? Or something that’s changed in the whole situation [Why not at least try?].
What makes it difficult to prioritize is all this “noise.” We know it and when we slow down, we feel it, too. We need to stop long enough to figure out how to quiet down the noise, declutter the “filler” stuff on our plates, so we can get to the true items we need to prioritize. Choose at least one strategy you will try for your priority setting.
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Or, if you’re ready to tackle prioritizing your list, contact me for an introductory “how does it work” get in touch soon: Phone 603.554.1948, message me on social media, text me at 603.765.9267 or email: Sue@CoachSueWest.com