How to Prioritize Your Work
If you look at a list of tasks, you will notice that each task is something you need to do or something you have been asked to do, each sitting on a line of a page with a check box next to, or instead in a software program with a similar design. Because each task is something you must do, each task appears to be equal, allowing us to view each task as being equal to 1.
But all projects and tasks are not equal. While some have a weight of 1, other projects and tasks are worth many times more than 1, and some are worth far less, creating negative value. There is no such thing as time management, and what we mean we use that popular phrase is priorities.
Prioritization is a Values-Based Decisions
If you are going to have priorities, you have to make values-based decisions. You have to believe that one thing is more important than some other thing. You also have to be willing to see some things as negative, things that subtract from your goals and outcomes and purpose and meaning.
You have great clarity about what is your most important task, but your email is piling up, and your friend just invited you to be part of a new and exciting project, one that you want to be part of. These simple routine conflicts require that you make decisions that consider the future you.
What Is the Impact
Let’s stick with the idea that all tasks are given a weight of 1. How do you decide which tasks are a 10 and which are a negative 10? You have to start by testing the work to see what it is worth, and one test is the impact of completing that task.
If you complete this task, does it move you closer to your goals and ambitions for the future? Does it impact the work you are here to do and is it something that contributes to your purpose and meaning? Or will the only impact this task will make will be a negative impact from stealing time from the things that make the greatest impact.
Will the future you look back and be grateful that you spent time on a project or task, or will future you regret giving time to things that made no real impact? What is a ten on impact and what is a negative ten on impact? What looks like a ten on impact but will likely be zero and is only on your list because you don’t want to miss out on something that sounds like fun?
How Important Is It to Your Future
There is another test you might consider when prioritizing your projects and tasks: How important is it to your future?
Some projects and tasks are more important to your future than others. The challenge for most of us is that we have more work that needs to be done to produce short-term results that we invest in those things to our detriment, leaving to little time for the projects and tasks that, seen from the future, are far more critical. Our balance here is often tilted in the wrong direction. Steeply, too.
Without the context of looking backward from the future, it can be difficult to assess the difference between two projects or two tasks that both seem to be a ten as it pertains to their impact and importance. Asking which one is going to produce the greater long-term benefit is how you prioritize the most proactive, impactful, and meaningful projects and tasks.
Let Future You Decide and Present You Act
Let future you decide what is going to be most important to you and let present you block the time to do the work to make that future a reality.