I get it. That frantic feeling where you have a million important things to do and only time to do roughly three of them. How do you know what's worth putting on the schedule? How do you come up with a reasonable, doable calendar that doesn't drive you and everyone else around you bonkers? But you can prioritize jobs for more success. Just ask yourself the following:
1. How many people will be affected by this activity?
A meeting with two people, for example, is much harder to reschedule than a meeting with your entire department. The more people are involved, the more important it is that you don't back out, shift or procrastinate.
2. What is the potential financial or other loss if the job doesn't get done?
You're not putting a ton at risk if you, say, don't make your bed in the morning. You likely will have a penalty, though, if you don't file paperwork by a deadline, call your credit card company about a suspicious charge or don't prepare for an investor's meeting.
3. Does the activity fit with my vision and/or goals?
I'm not talking just your company vision here. Think about how you want to be as a person, too. If the job turns you into an imposter or doesn't move you forward toward your objectives, think twice.
4. Does the activity align with my job description/requirements?
There's nothing saying you can't do work outside of what you were originally hired to do. It can be a good thing to reveal all your talents and skills, and companies adapt over time. But your primary obligation should be to the role you were first assigned, and higher-ups should adjust your job description and compensation if you consistently do other work. There might be another person you can delegate to if the task seems out in left field.
5. Does the job make sense given my current health?
If you wake up with a gross headache, for instance, you might be better off focusing on more mindless or quiet tasks like putting presentation binders together, rather than staring at tiny, math-heavy Excel cells on your computer all day or pushing yourself into a loud, crowded seminar. Always remember that taking care of yourself well ensures you're available for other tasks into the future.
6. What other times are available for me to do the job if I don't do it now?
If you have other windows the job could fit into, it's not as critical to have it on your immediate agenda. Shift it so you can put out bigger fires.
7. Does the job involve something that is time sensitive?
If you have to present at 3:00 p.m., it's time to prepare to present, not organize your messy drawer or make follow up calls. Don't let impulse, which is feeling-based, steal time away from what can't wait.
8. Can I delegate the activity to someone else?
Try to fill your calendar with jobs that truly require your personal skills and expertise. If there's someone with the capacity to fill in for you and they're able and willing, trust them to help. Then put your attention on what only you can or are authorized to do, or what has the biggest potential in terms of return (happiness, money, etc.)
9. Have I made obligations or promises elsewhere?
There's nothing wrong with negotiating and rearranging. Life is unexpected, and people understand that. But if you want people to trust you, you need to make every effort to fulfill the commitments you've already made. Your word matters.
10. How much effort does the work take?
It often doesn't make sense to put off work you can do in a snap, especially since checking a few simple tasks off your to-do list can give you a mood and confidence boost. Big jobs also might not fit into the window of time you have or require you to coordinate with others. In those cases, your priority to schedule might need to be just the prep work, not the whole job. Be realistic and don't bite off more than you can chew.
11. Does the work bring me joy?
This might be the most important question to ask yourself out of them all. Not every task is going to flood us with the feeling of rainbows and ponies. But your goal always should be to fill as much of your time with what makes you happy as you can. Sometimes, admittedly, you have to step back and see the big picture here. For example, I hate unloading the dishwasher, but it still can bring me joy if I think of how it enables my family to spend another meal sharing each other's company. If most of what you do drains your energy and happiness, it's either time to shift your attitude or take a risk and start a new path for your life.