Prioritization is high on the list of life-changing principles. Whenever we feel overwhelmed, it’s often because we don’t know what to do next. If you’ve faced indecision and feel like you would love to get more time back in your life, knowing what to focus on now – is a critical unlock. Today, we’re going to talk about how to prioritize effectively.
What happens when we don’t prioritize
Have you ever gotten to the end of a day and thought to yourself, “what did I actually accomplish?” Or have you ever had the sinking feeling that you’re working so hard, but not feeling like it’s moving the needle? The definition of “prioritize” according to the Oxford Dictionary is to designate (or treat) something as more important than other things or to determine the order of dealing (with a series of items or tasks) according to their relative importance.
What happens when you’re not sure of what’s important? This is where you get stuck with prioritization. You have trouble deciding. If you have trouble prioritizing, you are likely to have trouble making decisions. You’re not sure what is actually more important than something else right now. You are a highly intelligent being that can rationalize both choices or all choices. Is family more important right now than my career? Is my health my number one priority? It can feel painful to think you have to choose between things. You want it all.
Yet, we know something has to change. When we don’t do the one thing that matters the most, we feel like we haven’t accomplished much. We feel like we may be successful, but not at what matters. We say things like, “I don’t feel like I have a purpose” or “what does all of this even mean” or “I don’t know why I am killing myself over this but I am”. Do those things sound familiar? Or you might be saying “I feel like time keeps passing by, but I’m not where I want to be”.
Prioritizing effectively matters, even if we don’t do it. It’s why you either feel like you’re truly living in the present moment, or in a story about your past or future. It’s why you feel a sense of contentment about where you are today. It’s how you can answer that important question, “am I truly living so that I can die today, content?”
What we forget
What we forget is that we do have a choice. Even when you feel like your life is being dictated by your circumstances, you still have a choice. Your response to spending time with your family is a choice, even if you feel like it’s not. Your response to do your work or read the book or not do the work or not read the book is a choice, even if it feels like it’s not.
So how do we prioritize when we’re not sure of what to do and what’s most important? What most people think is that if we choose one thing, we’re forgoing everything else, but that’s not what prioritization means.
In due time
Prioritization is an order of accomplishing things. This means that over the course of time, you’ll be able to focus on all that matters. Right now, however, you can only do one thing at a time – so what is that one thing?
Here are two principles to unlock the ability to not only decide on what’s important, but do them.
Guiding Principle #1: The Pareto Principle
The pareto principle is the concept that approximately 80% of your results and outcomes are based upon 20% of factors or inputs. This concept was first introduced in the early 1900’s by Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, who noticed that 20% of his pea pods in his garden were responsible for 80% of the peas yielded. It was then used to describe the macroeconomics of distribution of wealth in Italy. He showed that 80% of the wealth in Italy came from 20% of the population.
From gardening to macroeconomics, you can apply this to almost any area of your life. How?
Ask yourself the following questions.
What 20% of effort will yield 80% of your results?
What 20% of People create 80% of your most meaningful relationships?
What 20% of customers drive 80% of sales?
What 20% of my projects/wins/successes will drive 80% of the perception of my personal brand?
When you begin to think with the end in mind, you realize that you can decide what’s most important. Pick an area of your life where you want to see change, apply the pareto principle and you’ll have the most important thing you’ll need to focus on right now.
Guiding Principle #2: Realize that you can do it all. Just not all right now.
I like to think that over the course of a day, I’ll focus on almost everything that matters. You can use the pareto principle to help you remember that our activities are different from our results/outcomes and guide yourself to figure out what to focus on first, but we cannot make the mistake of believing that the remaining 80% of our activities do not matter.
Let’s understand that our life is a domino effect. Sometimes, if we have success in one area – the rest become easier. How we decide what to do first is that one domino. What is the one thing that if you were to achieve, would allow you the most meaning in the area that is most important right now?
Do that first. Then you move the next thing that’s important to you into that second spot in the day/week/month/year. One thing at a time allows us to focus on results and then move onto the next thing that matters.
Try these out, let me know how it works. Most importantly, let yourself feel into the concept that you do know how to prioritize, you just haven’t allowed yourself to execute on what’s most important yet. Once you do, you’ll see how results come faster than ever before and you’ll feel like you’re living a life that’s meaningful to you, because your life is filled with that which matters most.
If you like this topic, you’ll love my group coaching program. In this month’s Leadership group coaching, we’ll be covering the process and energy of achieving. We’ll dive into practices of achieving that don’t burn us out, allowing us to utilize our time most effectively. We’ll also practice executing on the pareto principle and aligning our time. If you enjoy these kinds of topics, you can go to www.mayempson.com/contact to learn more.