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How to Prioritize When Everything is a Priority: 5 Tips

It's easy to be overwhelmed when the to-do list gets too long. Here's how to cut things down to size.
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I’m sure you know the feeling of getting up for work in the morning with the feeling of having so much to do that you don’t know where to start. Oftentimes, everything that you have to do seems like a priority, which makes it tough to figure out where to begin.

First things first! In order to move the ball forward you need to start somewhere. Here are some planning tactics that I’ve found helpful when you need to set your mind on immediate execution. Although long-term prioritization and planning is also essential, these techniques help me to make progress on the micro-level, day-to-day basis.

  • Make a List: First thing in the morning, write down everything that needs to get done that day. Once you have everything down, separate the items into urgent vs. non-urgent to determine the top priorities for that day.
  • Assess the Value: Completing certain tasks will offer more benefit than others. For example, I have a rule that client work comes before internal work. Because client work not getting done has bigger ramifications more often than internal work. 
  • Be Honest: When creating your list of priorities, be realistic about your bandwidth. Setting unattainable goals will only cause disappointment down the road.
  • Be Flexible: To be able to effectively prioritize, you must be able to deal with changing priorities. Take them as they come and decide if they are urgent or not.
  • Cut the Cord: As a perfectionist, this is the one that I struggle with the most. When something is really important, it’s easy to get caught up in the details and end up spending way too much time on a project or task. Spending too much time on one priority, however, prevents you from getting other stuff knocked off your list. Acknowledge when you’re doing this and enforce strict deadlines to prevent yourself from going down the rabbit hole.

Having a lot on your plate at once can feel very overwhelming, but almost anything is manageable if you learn to prioritize effectively.

Last updated: Mar 13, 2012

LAUREN PERKINS | founder, and CEO, Perks Consulting

Lauren Perkins is a branding and digital marketing evangelist who delivers integrated solutions from an entrepreneurial perspective. Lauren founded Perks Consulting, a full-service marketing agency specializing in the fusion of lifestyle and technology. She is also a regular contributor for Young Entrepreneur and ForbesWomen. You can follow her at twitter.com/laurenperkins.




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