Words by Tara Wagner
Too Much To Do? 😩 How to Prioritize When EVERYTHING Seems Important
I have gotten this question from a lot of you, wanting to know how to prioritize your business and your life when everything is a priority, everything seems important.
If that is you, that’s where you are right now, this video/blog is so for you. I’m going to:
- lend you a really important mindset shift that I want you to absorb
- a model of prioritization that I use and that I teach my clients with great effects
- and the two steps to implement it
Watch here or read below.
The first thing I’m going to do is drop a little truth bomb on you with a mindset shift I really want you to absorb.
When everything is important, nothing is.
I want you to think of putting all the things in your life on a pedestal.
When you put them all on the same level of pedestals, you know what that’s called?
It’s called the floor.
The origin of the word priority was a singular word. It was never meant to be plural. It literally means the first thing, not the first things. It didn’t make sense a couple hundred years ago to have priorities, because of the actual meaning of the word.
Not understanding this or maybe even not admitting it to ourselves literally makes us crazy, because now we have all these things competing for #1, and we’re not sure what to do with them or how to decide which is more important.
But I want you to understand that having a priority doesn’t mean the other things are not important.
It just means they’re not the first thing that gets addressed either in your day, your week, or your month. That doesn’t mean the other things are less important or less valuable. It just means that they’re not the first thing that you’re going to put your time and energy into.
I want to encourage you to practice this mindset shift by eliminating the word “priorities” and focusing only on the word “priority” and reminding yourself what I just said, that it doesn’t make anything else not important. It just means that you’re going to put them in the order of which you are going to address them.
Now, I’m going to teach you my prioritization model that I use in any area that I’m trying to prioritize, whether it’s the overall picture or whether it’s maybe just departments of my life, like my personal life or my professional life.
How to prioritize using my prioritization model
I want you to grab a pen and a piece of paper, maybe even turn that paper sideways, and turn it into four separate columns, so that you can title the top of each of these columns as such:
- 1st column – Self-care
- 2nd column – People
- 3rd column – Big Rocks
- 4th column – Everything Else.
Now, I’m going to show you how I use this prioritization model in two different aspects of my life, both in my overall life and then in just my business.
In my overall life the very first thing that I make sure goes on my schedule (which does not mean that it gets more time than other things, it just means that it gets scheduled first) is going to be my self-care.
Because like we all know, if we don’t put on our own oxygen mask, we’re not helping anybody else on that burning plane going down from the sky (which is a lot what this year feels like). We need to make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves first.
That second column is people. What I’m thinking in my overall picture is naturally my family. So, that’s going to be my husband and my son first. Then it’s probably going to be my mom. (Shout out to my mom! She always reads my blogs. Hi, mom!) Then anybody else: friends, coworkers, family… but I’m going to be looking at personal relationships first, because it ties back into that first category, which is self-care.
- BIG ROCKS
My category for Big Rocks is the long term, important things that I want to make sure my life is creating, producing, or moving towards. This could be a personal goal, or it could be a professional goal.
Right now, for me, it is a professional goal. I’m working on a course. At one point I’m going to be moving that towards a book. That will be my next Big Rock. I’m going to be looking at speaking; I actually am already working on that as a Big Rock. So, I want to make sure that those things get prioritized next in my schedule.
- EVERYTHING ELSE
In that category for Everything Else is literally everything else. After I’ve scheduled my self-care, and I made sure that I’m scheduling time for family and friends, and I’ve scheduled time for the most important things that I want to move forward 3/5/10 years from now, then I’m scheduling everything else into my calendar.
Nothing else gets scheduled unless those things are taken care of first.
Now, I want to make it clear again that just because my self-care comes first doesn’t mean it gets the most time.
Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean that just because people come before work they get more time than work. It just means that they get prioritized first, so that the needs of that category are getting met first. I’m scheduling them first in my calendar. Just because something is higher on the list doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be spending more time on it. Okay?
I’m repeating that multiple times, because I see that issue happen over and over again. “My family’s most important, so I’m spending the most time in that category,” when in fact your family may not need as much time as you think, and you may be able to take some of that time from them and put it into those Big Rocks, the big goals that you’re working on.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say “Big Rocks”, I have a video/blog called “What is Time Blocking?“, where I describe the idea of Big Rocks. I highly recommend that you check that out, because it ties into what we’re talking about here as well.
Now apply this model of prioritization in your business. Here’s how…
First, when I schedule my business hours, the first thing I’m looking at is Self-Care, which obviously doesn’t look like a hot bath. What it looks like is caring for my business and nurturing the business growth. A lot of times for me this is training. This is skill development, mindset work, things like that.
The next thing is going to be People. People is going to be meeting with my team. It’s going to be meeting with clients or customers or doing any sort of client facing work.
Now, this isn’t always 100% accurate, because it’s easy to call social media “People”, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about client phone calls, or answering a customer’s emails, I’m talking about really specific one-to-one interactions with people, and not just going on social media and generally connecting with a broader audience.
Then, again, I’m scheduling time for those Big Rocks, the most important things in my business in the long-term, not in the short-term.
Then I am scheduling everything else.
Create your 4 categories
Once you’ve got the four categories, I want you to start brain dumping everything that you are juggling in your brain (and feel like you need to be doing) into these categories. Allow yourself to just take some time and fill it completely out. You can even go back to each category and categorize what feels most important within that category.
When I’m looking at self-care, food for me is one of the most important things, because it helps my body. I have a chronic illness and a chronic disability. It helps me feel the best when I’m making sure to spend plenty of time on the nutrition going into my body. So, that’s going to go in the top of my list, whereas hot baths are really nice, but they’re actually pretty low to the bottom in terms of the ROI that they create.
You want to do this with every single category.
You want to just look at, maybe compare two or three things and say, “Okay. Of these two things, what’s more important?” Move one up. “Of these next two things, what’s more important?” Move one up. Just play around with it until you can get it in somewhat of a prioritized list.
Now, again, I realize that everything seems important, so I don’t need you to perfect this list, but do the best you can.
lay it all out in your calendar
I recommend that you lay it all out into an empty schedule of one week. What I mean by empty schedule is not necessarily that you need to empty your schedule right now, but just take a calendar page that just has one week in it, so that you can visualize what this might look like over the span of a week. I don’t recommend doing too much more than that. I definitely don’t recommend doing any less than that.
Step #2 – Write in your immovable objects
The first thing that you’re going to do is write in any immovable objects.
What I call an immovable object is something that you need to do that you can’t really get much wiggle room on, if any at all. This might be, for instance, if you have a 9-5 job while you’re working on your business or other goals, you want to write that in first.
Step #3 – Write in self-care
The next thing you’re going to write in is time for self-care.
Now, it helps if you go through all of your self-care items, the things that you really want to be doing, and estimate how much time it will actually take you, maybe even time it, so that you can get a really accurate estimate. This will help you to schedule it into your day.
You get to decide.
Do you need to do this every day or every week? I have things that I need to do every single morning, every single afternoon, and every single night, especially because I’m moving through a really intense time with my health, as well as with personal growth. So, I am doing a lot of self-care and a lot of mindset work. It takes a lot of time and energy.
I also have things that I do just on a weekly basis, as well as things that I do on an every other week basis. But what I try to do is block out the same time for self-care. So, if I’m not doing my every other week thing that week, I can do something else for self-care in that time period.
Step #4 – Write in your people
Then you’re going to write in the time you need with loved ones.
Maybe this is carving out dinner time, time on a Sunday, time on a Saturday, games that you want to be at with your kids. You’re going to write all of those things in next.
Again, remember, it doesn’t necessarily matter how much time you’re writing in, but the QUALITY of that time instead.
Review your lists
Then I want you to look and see what’s left.
What’s left on your calendar is the actual hours that you have to invest in your goals or your business. I know most of you are entrepreneurs who watch this, so I’m going to be referring to it as your business.
The number of hours you have left then get to be chunked down into those Big Rocks and into Everything Else.
I want you to take out at least 25% of that week just for your Big Rocks.
I know that can seem like a crazy amount of time, but the truth is if you’re not spending that much time working on your business, not just in your business, meaning you’re not just doing the day to day things to keep your business moving today, you’re probably going to have a really hard time moving your business in the future.
Remember that the things you do on your business today creates your success 6-12 months from now.
if you’re not planting the right seeds and nurturing the right things now, you’re not going to have much of a harvest later on down the road.
So what about everything else?
Now, we could go a lot deeper into this topic, and the Time Blocking Boss download will do a lot of that for you and answer some of the common challenges that come up around this, but I want to answer the burning question that I get from so many of you, which is, “What about everything else? I’ve laid everything out. I’ve got my Big Rocks, my Self-Care. My People are all scheduled in. I’ve got time for clients and time for customers. I’ve got the most important jobs and tasks in my business, but I’ve got this whole list of everything else that I want to get done too that also seems really important. What do I do with all of that if it seems like I’m not going to have the time?”
Are you ready for this? Take it in. It’s going to hurt a little… You let the chips fall where they fall.
Here’s the thing… If you focus on your real priorities, the inconsequential things will have a tendency to fall away, and the important things that need to get done have a crazy freaking way of getting done. I don’t know how it happens. I cannot answer that for you, but I promise that it happens. I’ve seen it over and over again in myself and in my clients. But you have to be willing to put your blinders on to the most important things and allow everything else to slowly align around those things.
Again, that analogy that I draw on about the “Big Rocks” in my blog called What is Time Blocking, will really describe this to you really well and help you to understand how (and why) this actually works.
I’m going to be really blunt with you here.
If you don’t make time for your priorities and protect that time fiercely, even at the sacrifice of other things, you will not stand a chance at success, because this practice that I’ve just taught you around how to prioritize is not just about creating an organized week. It’s about creating a sustainable system, creating something that will actually sustain longterm success.
Because if we are not consistently working on the things that will help us to grow ourselves, our relationships, and our own businesses, our goals, our skills in certain areas, if we’re not constantly, consistently working on the things that will allow those things to grow, those things will atrophy.
So, yes. This is challenging. You will be making some sacrifices to make this work, but I also want you to understand that at least 75% of that “Everything Else” column actually doesn’t matter as much as we insist it does.
There are a lot of things you’re doing in your business because you think you have to, when there are other people out there not doing those things and creating more success, because they’re able to focus on things that are actually driving things forward.
So, whether you think you need to be on every social media platform, or you think you need to be showing up in every Facebook group, or you think you need to be doing all of the different things yourself versus finding help, or hiring things, or whatever the issue might be, as long as you feel like you have to do those things, you will consistently keep yourself going around, and around, and around the same problems and never forward.
And there’s also something called Parkinson’s Law, which means the size of the task will actually expand according to the time you allow it.
If you force something into a smaller time-frame, you’re going to find a way to get it done in that time frame, but if you give it twice as much time, it will actually take twice as much time.
So, I know I’m dropping some hard truth bombs on you and some serious mindset shifts. I know that this is not a simple or an easy practice
But I also know that you can do this, because the moment you focus on the things that matter the most in the different areas of your life, your health, your wellbeing, your relationships, and your longterm goals and success – what you really want your work and your life to be about – the more joy, and success, and happiness you’re going to be able to experience.
That makes this whole process become a lot easier, because you start to see the results of it.
don’t forget to download my Time Blocking Boss freebie
It’s gonna be a really crucial tool for you in this process. It will walk you through some really effective strategies to help you avoid some of the common mistakes that go along with time blocking.
You can learn more about the time blocking guide here, or by clicking the button below.
What about you, boss lady?
Be sure to comment below with your best tips on how to prioritize, or any questions that you have, or wherever you might be getting stuck in this process.
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About the Author
I’m the breakthrough coach for self-employed women who are barely surviving their business. I help you to identify and overcome your old habits – both practical, as well as emotional and mental – learn a better way of approaching the work/life/family juggling act, and gain confidence in your new role in your growing businesses. Learn more about me here.
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