One of my great discoveries in business is that the smartest office workers ask the best questions. It's amazing how this plays out. The time-wasters and value-destroyers don't bother asking questions about the tasks they are completing that day, they just mindlessly do them. Those with a questioning attitude about the day get the most done. They do more than prioritize. They tend to ask these hard questions on a daily basis and then respond by jumping into action.
1. What's my top priority?
I always look through my list (after having my morning routine, of course) and decide what has to get done that day. Is an article due? Do I have an important phone call with an important figure scheduled? I always start out the day and pick one thing that is not negotiable that day.
2. What are the roadblocks?
Next, I always look for the roadblocks. Do I have to drive downtown? OK, I better conserve some energy. Is the meeting coming up this afternoon going to be tense? I've written before how you should manage your stress, not your time. You have to coordinate around roadblocks.
3. Who is my customer for this?
One of my editors likes to remind me about this one. It's incredibly important if you communicate about anything -- through written text, video, email, Slack, or whatever you are using that day. The true sign of an unproductive person is someone who doesn't think about the customer.
4. How will this create value?
Related to this is the idea of creating value. Lost productivity and minimal value go hand in hand. They are kissing cousins. Unproductive people are not creating value, they are wasting time. For any new project or task, ask how this activity is creating direct, measurable value.
5. What should I skip?
It's such a freeing concept to remind yourself, on a daily basis, that some things are not worth doing. You establish what needs to get done, identify your audience, and create value as I described above. Then, you skip anything else that is superfluous, a time-waster, or is not a top priority. Productivity stars weed out the fluff.