Welcome back to The Brown Parachute Club. I hope you enjoyed last week’s article on GCF Learn Free. It really is quite an amazing website. This week I wanted to talk to you about Setting Priorities and why it is so important in getting things done.
If you read my articles about Procrastination, Goals, and Discipline, you will remember that you’re not going to get anywhere in life without Goals, and the Discipline to take the steps to reach them. However, Discipline without Priorities is like a video I saw on Facebook the other day. This guy was trying to line up 10 kittens in a row. Needless to say, it was an impossible task!
That’s what happens in our daily lives. We have great ideas we turn into Goals, but we’re unsure of where to begin. We have a list of tasks that need to be done in order to reach that Goal. However, we’re not sure “what order” those tasks should be done in to reach that Goal.
This is where Setting Priorities comes in. It allows you to perform a sort of daily triage on the tasks that need to be accomplished. By completing these tasks in the proper order, you get one step closer to achieving that Goal. However, it’s not just Goals that need to be prioritized. Your day-to-day jobs need to be arranged as well.
What’s more important? Calling a plumber to fix the leaky pipe in your basement, or picking up your suit from the dry cleaners? Unless you WANT an indoor pool in your basement, I would recommend calling the plumber first! That’s an extreme example, but figuring out which task needs to be done first is essential to getting things done!
In my article on Procrastination, I mentioned a book by Brian Tracy called Eat That Frog! It is all about tackling your ugliest tasks (or frogs) first thing in the morning. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to finally stop putting off ‘til tomorrow what they can do today.
There is another section in the book where he mentions something called the “ABCDE Method”. As Tracy describes it, there’s more to your life than just ugly frogs that need eating. There are a number of other chores and Goals that need to be completed. This is where the ABCDE Method comes into play.
The method is relatively simple:
“A” items are tasks that “Must Be Done”, like getting that important report to your boss on time. NOT forgetting your Wedding Anniversary, and other critical items.
“B” tasks are “Should Do” tasks. Stuff like getting your dog to the groomer (unless she just had a run in with a skunk, then I would move that up to an “A” task, pronto), getting an oil change, picking up your suit from the cleaners, and generally stuff that won’t stop your world if you put it off for a day.
“C” tasks are jobs that you “Can Do”. Stuff like meeting a friend for lunch, donating blood, helping out at your church, going to the movies, etc.
“D” is for “Delegate!” If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you might want to delegate cutting the lawn to your shiftless teenage son. That way, you can finally fix that leaky faucet in the bathroom.
“E” stands for “Eliminate”. These are tasks you have on your to-do list that you may have already completed and forgot to cross off the list. Or, they may have been relevant at some point, but are now obsolete.
“Ok”, I hear you say, “that’s great, but what if there are more than one of these A-E tasks on my list?” That’s where sub-prioritizing comes in. For example, look at all of your “A” tasks and attach a number to the “A” for each one, based on the importance of each item. Like “A1”, “A2”, “A3”, etc. You get the idea. Depending on the size of your to-do list, this might take you a while, but the benefits will be enormous.
There is something called the 80/20 Principle, or the Pareto Principle This principle states that 20% of your completed tasks create 80% of the impact on your job or life. You can see that all of the “A” tasks naturally belong in the 20% group. Everything else should fall into the 80% category. The 80% or “B-E” tasks should be worked on only when all of the 20% or “A” tasks are completed.
This same prioritizing should always be applied to your Goal Setting and Achieving. You may have a list of tasks that are necessary for you to achieve a particular Goal, but you realize they might not really be in the proper order. Either re-sort these “Action Steps” into a logical order, or apply the ABCDE Method to them, whichever is easier.
I hope this article has helped you see how your to-do list can be organized more efficiently. There’s one more point I want to make about Priorities. Make sure that you don’t fall into the “80% Trap”! That’s where you wind up spending all of your time working on the 80% tasks instead of the 20% tasks. Why? Because the 80% tasks are easier! That’s why they’re in the 80% list! Remember, the top 20% of your tasks create the greatest impact and will help you to achieve your Dreams and Goals faster! Are they tougher? You bet! That’s why you keep putting them off! However, these are the tasks that will really get you ahead in the world!
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