Saturday, March 24, 2018

Too Many Things to Do? 5 Simple Steps to Prioritize Them

Everyone seems to be so busy these days. So many projects to do at work and chores at home. And then there are surprises that pop up once awhile, like a leaking roof, flat tire, etc. Finally, we get frustrated as there are too many things, which doesn't help. How do we fix all that? Easy: prioritize.

Before we get into how to prioritize, let's understand why -- as always. The obvious thing is there are too many things to do and there is only one of you. What isn't so obvious is how the brain works and its efficiency when dealing with many things. Our brain just isn't wired to multi-task, and so we can do only one thing at a time well -- maybe it could change if you try hard enough, maybe. When we try to do many things at the same time, the context switching decreases our focus and therefore the quality of our work, which means you are likely to make mistakes or get into accidents. Since we can only focus on one thing at a time, to do the best job, we need to prioritize our list into a sequential list of todos.

Step 1: Create a list. This can be a mental list if you don't have too many tasks, otherwise it should be written down. There are many todo list apps available -- iPhone & Android phones comes with one.

Step 2: Order the list based on which item provides the most value. Value differs from person to person, and so you will need to come up with your own way. I would only suggest using something simple and quick as there are many tasks to grade and likely you will do all of them at the end anyway -- total time is the same regardless of order so it doesn't matter [unless you end up not having to do it].

Step 3: Do each item in sequential order. If you are blocked / waiting for one item, then you can start another, but that should be kept to a minimal to avoid too many context switching.

Step 4: For any new item, assess the value and insert into the right spot, ideally below what you are currently working on to avoid context switch.

Step 5: For old/low priority tasks, let them "brew" but ok to do them out of order once awhile. It might feel like there are tasks that you won't ever get to based on the priority -- the ones at the bottom, but that is a good thing as they don't provide much value. And by listing them but not doing, eventually you could collect enough of similar tasks to group them or do them in a way that provides a higher value with a lower cost, hence "brew". For some tasks, if the cost to get it done is cheap and it makes you or someone happy, why not.

That's it. In just 5 steps, we can turn our hectic lives into a well organized and efficient one -- just one task a a time without the frustration.

This is part of the Essential Life Skills blog series. If you like it, share with your colleagues and family! :)

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