9 ways To Better Prioritize Your Time & Life
Hustle culture and glamourizing overworking aren’t helping.
Everything today feels like it’s so important. Between meetings, distractions from technology, work, friends, and family, we’re spreading ourselves thin and looking for ways to keep everything organized.
There are many articles out there suggesting all kinds of different ways to manage your time better or amp you up to hustle, but they’re not all very fulfilling. And in some cases, they may just normalize the grind of the day.
There are better ways to go about deep work and working enough that you don’t need to be pouring a lot of time over. Better yet, some of these methods can be transferred to other parts of your life to make things much easier.
1. Having Any List
My business is run off of a simple list these days and will continue to do so forever. The reasoning is simple: lists are very flexible and are the base for various ways of prioritization.
I personally use this list for the MIT method — Most Important Tasks. Every day I have 3 MITs I want to complete. These tie into work but also my life overall.
Once I get them done, I feel a sense of satisfaction. That I’ve done everything that needs to be done at this point.
The appeal with lists is they can be flexible. So if you want to focus more on work, have every task related to work and have another list for personal stuff. You can also look at other prioritization methods such as:
Urgent-Important Matrix: Section tasks into four boxes — Do first, schedule, delegate, don’t do. Treat them accordingly.
Ivy Lee Method: Souped up version of MIT in that you pick exactly six things to do for tomorrow and focus on those six things tomorrow exclusively.
1–3–5 Method: Start your day thinking you can get 1 big task done, 3 medium tasks, and 5 small tasks. This can also be very flexible as you can go with 1–2–3 if you feel your time is limited.
25–5 Rule: Write down 25 goals or tasks you want to achieve this week. Circle the first 5 on that list and prioritize those while avoiding the other 20 at all costs.
2. Understand Your Core Values
Even though a list can help, a list is also useless if you have no idea what you value or where you want to go in life. We all have different priorities in life and it’s important for you to decide what those are.
Even though people have their own biases and encourage certain lifestyles or ways of thinking, you are the one in complete control. You are the one to decide what is and isn’t important in your life.
When you know where you want to go in life or what you want to focus on, making lists becomes much easier. You stop chasing after things that you think that you want.
Take it from someone who spent 7 years pursuing a career I didn’t care at all about. Having 3 to 5 core values is enough to start on.
3. Know Your Priorities Over Their Priorities
The things that we think we want aren’t always the things we actually want. The sooner you learn that in life the better.
I thought I wanted to be an accountant. And now I’m in a completely different field because this is what I actually wanted.
Of course, those scenarios are going to continue happening and they look different every time. Sometimes it’s someone selling a course or posting on social media and that sways your thinking. In other cases you might be comparing who you are to someone else.
There are many windows of opportunity for other people directly or indirectly to make you think you want to live a certain lifestyle. They want you to drive that fancy car, have a high-paying job, be debt-free in a few years, have a big house, or surround yourself with beautiful men and women.
Those kinds of priorities might not fit with what you think a great life is.
Sure we all want to be debt-free, but maybe we’re happy with it taking five or ten years rather than one or two.
Maybe you want to live in a condo for the rest of your life or an apartment and never bother about a house.
People will always put pressure on you in various ways and they will push what makes them happy but not necessarily what makes you happy. To have better priorities it’s important to figure out the difference between you acting on an idea that’s influenced by others heavily or if it’s something you’ve reached mostly on your own.
After all, people will always have some influence on you. The difference is whether the person expects you to pursue it or doesn’t.
4. Have Your Habits Revolve Around Your Goals
Most of your routines and the habits that you have should help you work towards your goals in some fashion. This is how strong habits are going to stick and it’ll be easier for them to stick.
If you want to improve your health, hit the gym three times a week and in between rest periods, have some kind of physical activity.
To publish a book, spend 20 minutes everyday writing.
Being a better partner means setting some time every day to be together.
Small habits are what become the bigger results and these small habits don’t demand you spend hours every day doing them.
5. Get A Better Sense Of Progress
Small habits in nature are only slight changes in your life and it can feel like they’re doing nothing at all. If that is the case, it means your sense of progress isn’t there and you need to spend more time reflecting on what’s been done.
My first time with my personal trainer, I didn’t achieve my weight loss goal. In terms of that goal, I failed. But I do still think the experience is overall positive because I made progress in so many other areas:
I got a better understanding of my body and what muscles should be working during specific movements.
I got a better understanding of nutrition.
I built up the habit of going to the gym overall — something many people working on weight loss struggle with.
Yes, it sucks that I didn’t hit my weight loss goal, but I gained other things in the process and knowing what’s changed as a result of doing a habit for a few weeks or a month or a year can really show how much has changed.
6. Respect The Obstacles
Mark Manson stressed the importance of accepting and respecting the challenges in our lives. Struggle and pain are a part of our lives and anyone promising a process that’s painless or is laughably easy is lying.
Life has always had pressures, complexities, pain, struggles, and failures. It’s better to accept that and change your attitude about these things. Rather than avoid them or play the victim, accept them and use them to your advantage.
Figure out how those struggles and issues can help you solve problems long term. In many cases, obstacles are signs that you need to pivot or make adjustments to your daily habits in order to get a breakthrough.
7. Weave In Small Nagging Tasks Into Your Life
With our lives filled with so many things to do, there are things that you will procrastinate on. Some things are bigger, but in many cases some of them are very small.
On Friday, I had to set up a PIN for a bank card I’ve had sitting on my desk for over a year. It only became a priority in recent months when my dad told me that the bank I’m currently using could freeze the account if anything bad ever happens to him.
Since I’m switching banks, it makes sense to set up the PIN for the card I’ll be using from this point onward. It didn’t take long to set up at all.
Things like that do not take a lot of time out of your day but they have a tendency of piling up and can overwhelm people. Or it might be a source of anxiety.
Making a point of just getting them done and integrating them in your life in some fashion (i.e. I went to an ABM on my way to the gym to set up the PIN) makes it easier.
8. Get To Focusing
There are many reasons we procrastinate and one reason is we can’t seem to focus. There might be too much going on all at once or you might be mentally or physically exhausted and letting your mind wander.
Being focused requires a lot of practice to get good at, even if you have a lot of the tools and methods mentioned above. Some other ways to help you stay focused on things are:
The Pomodoro Technique: set a timer for 20 minutes and focus on doing that task during that time. Once the timer goes off, set another for 5 minutes and do something else. Take a break or do some mindless tasks like washing the dishes. Once that’s done, repeat the process.
Time blocking: Make a list of everything you need to do today and section them off into blocks. During those times, that is where you’ll be focusing your time on doing.
- Understand When You Need To Take It Easy
I’ve gotten to a point that after my MIT list is all done, my day is complete and I don’t need to do anything else. It’s a big relief and peace of mind for me because I know if I do too much I get burnt out and there will be days I don’t do anything at all.
To avoid all that, I’ve been building this system gradually, ensuring I don’t feel overwhelmed and give myself time to do other things. All at the same time, ensuring I’m prioritizing my time and life and covering my needs.
I recognize not everyone has that luxury and that I’m in a privileged position in some cases. Not everyone can take it easy for several hours per day. However, I believe that people can manage at least a little.
Being able to have a mental “reset” for even a handful of minutes can be meaningful and help you to build up motivation. It also gets you to focus back on yourself and prioritize what’s important to you.
CONTRIBUTED BY Eric S Burdon