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The Art of Prioritising

Posted on 23/08/2016 by Jerri Howlett

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I have a list of priorities, both in my head and stored within the notes section on my phone. I know what it is important to me and the benefits they hold, but the problem I seem to have is prioritising my priorities. With my list growing by the day, along with guilt, I feel overwhelmed and have in turn looked for advice within a self help book. As part of the self help book generation, which I am extremely proud of, it has become the ‘in thing’ to seek clarification.

I recently purchased ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F**k’ by Sarah Knight after struggling with the number of priorities I had, in the hope that my time management wasn’t the problem and just maybe my priorities weren’t as important as I had first thought. The book compares your mind to a cluttered barn, and filters whether your priorities are in fact obligations. Along with putting the methods from the book to practise, I stumbled across an article from Forbes writer Caroline Beaton (aka queen of wisdom) who has compiled a four step guide of how to ‘Simplify Your Priorities When Everything Seems Important’, posing the question what is the solution to prioritizing?

Step 1: Zoom Out

Zooming out on each of your priorities by envisioning your larger goals will protect you from prioritizing things that aren’t ultimately important to you or worth stressing over.

“Priorities are the actions we take in pursuit of our values: the vehicles to our values. But sometimes priorities muddle with what we think should be important or seems urgent and lose contact with what we actually care about”

Step 2: Compare

If you are the type of person who lives their life abiding by lists you will particularly enjoy the comparison stage. Combing a method taken from Sarah Knight’s book and Caroline’s guide, a list comparing your priorities with the question in mind ‘what you would most regret not doing?’ to each point makes an easier choice through the lens of consequence.

“Our conflicting priorities are opportunities to individually decode what matters”

Step 3: Consolidate

A famous Harvard paper from the 1950’s reports our brains can only process seven one-dimensional elements at once. In summary of this step we must choose seven or less values that most or all of our priorities fall under, crossing off those that don’t align with our chosen values. Any floating priorities that don’t fit in any values category, should be eliminated.

Apps such as Mindset, Xmind, Coggle, Freemind, MindNode and Mind Map can all be used to assist you in this stage for productivity.

Step 4: Plan

The final stage and one I struggle with most, is planning. Having established our main priorities we now need to devise a plan to accomplish them, which involves creating a schedule of bite sized goals. Research shows the suggestion of using our social media platforms to publicly post our goals will not only make us more accountable but will lead to achievement through fear of public failure.

The most important factor for this step is to be realistic with our schedules, we want to be able to accomplish everything at once, but adjusting timeframes if needed gives us the encouragement to pursue each priority without the overwhelming pressure we initially put on ourselves during step 1.

With Caroline’s guide to hand, now is the perfect time to reevaluate the priorities in your mental barn and ban the anxiety of failure.