A lot has been said about prioritizing. We all know that we’re expected to focus on the most important, time-sensitive tasks and only then attend to other, less important tasks. The question is: what is important? In the absence of a definite deadline, what should we really start with?
1. First, there are those items that do have a definite deadline (a letter announcing next month’s campaign, a presentation for tomorrow’s meeting and of course daily emails and meetings) which we just can’t postpone. These should be taken care of right now or we will simply miss the train. With no other choice in hand, we usually rank these at the top of our priority list.
2. Then, we have the paperwork. This includes bills, invoices and ongoing reports that almost any job entails and almost any worker resents. We often find ourselves pushing these tasks back to the bottom of the priority list but at the same time, feeling extremely guilty about the ever-growing pile or outlook reminders that are getting harder and harder to ignore.
3. Last, among the many items on our “to do” list, there are a few tasks that we actually feel passionate about: An article we’re excited to write, a presentation for which we have an exceptionally creative idea or a lunch meeting with a fun, interesting client. The problem is that these items are not always considered “high priority” hence, we feel at fault spending time on them now and find ourselves putting them aside in favor of the due-tomorrow-report or the financial analysis we had promised ourselves to work on this week.
So what did we have? First, the time sensitive tasks, then the must-do admin work and last, the less-urgent, more enjoyable items. Guess what? If you choose (very logically) to prioritize your “to do” list in this order, you will probably end up with very little efficiency and one big frustration. Very quickly, you will find yourself updating your status on LinkedIn / Facebook, browsing the web or even calling your mother-in-law: anything to avoid the dull day ahead of you. Your low motivation and lack of investment in any of these tasks will translate into mediocrity at best.
Prioritize with your heart and start with the tasks you’re most passionate about!
I know it sounds like a promotional slogan for an irresponsible decision-making process (have some faith in me, will you?) but there are some pretty sound arguments to following your heart.
First, remind yourself the reason you took this job / stayed in this position for 20 years / started this company in the first place: you wanted to make a living AND enjoy what you do! This goal should guide and inspire your every career-related decision.
Now, if you start your day with a task you enjoy, not only will you be more energized and motivated for the rest of the day, but you will probably maximize your performance and the successful accomplishment of all your daily tasks. Imagine yourself as a kid, running outside to play when that was exactly what you’ve been waiting for all afternoon.
Now, imagine being sent out to play “because mom needs some quiet time.” How invested were you in that playtime? In other words, working on that presentation just when you feel a great idea popping up in your mind and you’re all eager and steamy about it is nothing like working on the same presentation when the deadline is approaching. Furthermore, by postponing your “passion” to later in the day /week, you might lose momentum and either forget your brilliant idea altogether or approach it without enthusiasm, which is almost as bad as letting it go.
Now, since I promised prioritizing responsibly, here’s the plan: bribe yourself to complete some “must-do” work with every fun work you get to do. Just like you “bribe” kids to eat some veggies with their pizza, you are ought to pay for starting with a favored task by doing some agonizing paperwork / due-tomorrow task right after. In other words, you kick-off the day with something you enjoy doing but make sure to follow with some other essential work so you can still complete all your tasks on time.
Overall, we are probably looking at a similar balance of enjoyable vs. not-so-fun workload. The difference is in how we prioritize our tasks to keep ourselves motivated, enthusiastic and efficient when approaching each one of them.
It all comes down to following our hearts. The rest will follow.
Daniella Balaban established DB Business Coaching in 2008. Her coaching training from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and her background in business and marketing add to make the formula for helping business women and women entrepreneurs find balance and success in their life and career.