How to prioritise my time when I have too much on my plate!
As a solopreneur, everything is important, and that pressure to get everything done NOW can become a relentless stressor, and can often lead to procrastination, overwhelm and eventually burnout.
The one thing I need to remember here is that I can only do one thing at a time.
I have to start somewhere, and just work through it. In my own experience, and in coaching others feeling this same pressure, the process of planning your priorities – even simply numbering my to do list – can go a long way towards easing that stress, and allowing me to just get on with it productively and calmly.
Today I want to share some strategies to help you work out what to do next – to help you work out how to prioritise when everything has to be done now. I’m going to use me as the case study!
I’ve written about to do lists here in relation to getting a to do list done.
Today’s tip relates more to what actually goes on to my to do list, and the actual decision making process of prioritising.
When I get really stuck (i.e. – spend the whole morning lost in FB), it’s usually because I have so many things whirling around in my head.
My #1 strategy first off is to get it all out. It’s so much more helpful when I can see it on paper, rearrange and get it clear.
I find that when I keep it in my head, I lack the clarity to make the best decisions.
The other thing to remember is that not all tasks/ projects are created equal. Many of the entrepreneurs I coach are working their guts out to get everything done – but without this prioritisation.
This just means that the stress of having to do EVERYTHING all of the time is hugely overwhelming, and has left them feeling over-worked, with no life, and unhappy. I know this, because I’ve experienced it, and have helped many work through this process too. I know it works.
So – once I have everything out of my head and on paper – it’s not just a case of starting at the top.
I need to much more strategic about this. I take into consideration:
– my top priorities
– my daily habits
– focus work vs taking action time
– the ‘shoulds’
– reverse engineering my deadlines
My Top Priorities:
- Growing my list
- Being consistent with SM & Connecting with my list
- Creating a regular income
- Spending time with my family
How to Prioritise My Time
1. Urgency Vs Importance
In order for me to make progress on my monthly goals and priorities, I need to take action on them. I find it can often be easier to get caught up checking emails, posting on SM, etc but before I know it, half of the morning has gone, and I haven’t done my main task for the day.
If I don’t prioritise them, they’ll end up done later in the day, rushed, and the quality will certainly not be there. I find I can often be side tracked by the urgent tasks, but if they’re not important too, then I need to schedule them later.
2. Daily Habits
I have some daily habits that are quite strategic.
I know that I am more productive when I’ve done some exercise, so I walk most days
(unless it’s pouring with rain, or blowing a gale). This gets me a tick in one of my top priorities without me even having to think about it.
I also know that I need to be productive during the day, so that I can achieve my other top priority of spending time with my girls. Having down time with my family and being able to play with them is a productivity strategy, because it links DIRECTLY to one of my values (family) and is one of my top priorities. It’s that simple some days. Yes – other days are harder, but overall – this drives me to get things done so that I can stay aligned to my values.
I write out and review my to do list every day, so that I can stay in touch with my priorities, and get the important work done. If I don’t have this clarity from the start, I can easily consume social media all morning and find myself frustrated with my own lack of focus.
3. Theme Days & Ideal Week Calendar
I often talk to entrepreneurs who have huge to do lists every day. Mine used to be the same until I started planning my week, and having theme days.
I know which days are allocated to coaching, and which days are allocated for content creation.
Early on as an entrepreneur, I used to feel the pressure of writing my weekly blog each day. The week would start and I’d feel it on Monday. When I didn’t get it done on Monday, I’d carry that pressure over to Tuesday, and so on, and then I ended up procrastinating.
I also have an Ideal Week mapped out in my Google Calendar. This is a guideline for me to work from that ensures that I’m spreading my time out evenly, and can get the things done that I need to.
I balance out the 5 M’s: Marketing, Meeting, Making (content creation), Me Time, and Managing.
Now I allocate a blog writing session (Making), and I don’t need to think of it until that day, and I don’t have to roll it over on my list from day to day. I also have a content plan now, so that also makes it easier, but this strategy certainly works for me.
If it’s Thursday, then newsletter goes at the top of my list.
If it’s Monday, at the start of a month or week, then my Buffer goes at the start of my list.
4. Being mindful of how I work: Focus work vs Taking action time
I focus better first thing, AND when I put the timer on! So, I need to prioritise and schedule into my day the tasks that need focus time. I know I can potter around with the action tasks later in the day – but I will definitely do both with better attention and quality when I get the thinking work done first. After that, I can put the music up loud, sing along, and work through my action list.
Once these decisions are made, and I’ve worked out how much time everything should take, I can put on the timer and Pomodoro those tasks, and trust that I’m making progress. I also know that I work much better when I do this. When I don’t have a plan, the multi-tasking starts, and I flit from one thing to another, and then everything takes much longer.
5. Knowing My Purpose
I know myself well enough to notice when I’m procrastinating getting a task done. When I notice it, and check in on the WHY of the task, I often find that it’s something I’ve read that someone else has done, so therefore I HAVE to do it. How wrong is that!
Yep – this is the impact of comparisonitis. It adds pressure unnecessarily.
Just because ____ (insert successful person I’m stalking on FB) does it, doesn’t mean that I SHOULD do it. It has to be right for me, and it has to fit in with my top priorities.
So, when I notice that tasks on my to do list aren’t there for the right reasons, and they’re just adding to my stress, then I re-evaluate.
6. Reverse Engineering My Tasks
I like to work backwards from a deadline, so that I’m not rushing at the end. This has developed in me because at Uni I would always leave things until the last minute, and get it done BUT it was usually not my best work. It’s really not a good strategy when you’re under pressure. It may seem so on the surface, but I believe that given an opportunity to use the time well, the quality improves!
So – I have implemented the ‘reverse engineer’ for my longer term goals. It’s really just about breaking bigger tasks down in to smaller tasks.
The benefit of this strategy is that it allows me to work in small chunks of time, but still progressing towards the result.
I don’t know about you, but it’s much harder to find an hour of time to get a smaller task done once a week, than it is to find 3-4 hours of time and work through the whole project.
I can never focus for that long anyway!
7. For When I just don’t want to do it: Insert Action Combo
There are always jobs that I just don’t want to do. However, these tasks are actually holding me back. They’re taking my focus, my energy, and are making me procrastinate! The upshot of this is that it’s making it harder to gain momentum on the tasks that I DO want to do.
They take up room in my to do list, and dilute my focus and productivity. When this happens, I try either of these two strategies.
- Delegate it: Hand it over to someone who can do it.
- If I can’t delegate it – then I make it fun.
I set it up as an Action Combo by linking it with something that I love to do.
A perfect example of this for me is to do a job whilst listening to music – it always makes the time go faster, and I LOVE any opportunity to listen to music.
I also have strategy walks, where I have to think something through, or make a plan – while I walk, and there’s no distractions!
So – to help you Prioritise your Time, here’s a Summary of my points.
NOTE: This is not a list to be followed in sequence. I think you’d get confused if you did that.
Select some of the areas and tweak your prioritisation.
Chances are you do some of these already, but might need to review and adjust if you’re feeling overwhelmed at having to get everything done NOW.
- Write out your top 5 priorities
- Brain dump your tasks for the week
- Prioritise, starting with your top Priorities (Urgent and Important
- Prioritise your Urgent, not Important tasks
- Schedule your Focus tasks for your high concentration times (ie. morning)
- Schedule your Action Tasks (i.e., when you’ve done your focus, afternoon/ evening)
- Break down any that seem overwhelming, and map them out over the week or month
- Create Theme days for your 5 M’s
- Set up an Ideal Week Calendar in Google Cal.
- Reverse Engineer a longer term project, and add it as a Theme day, or work chunk in your week
- Check for any tasks that aren’t getting done, but are on your list because you think you ‘should’ be doing them
- Play around with an Action Combo for any jobs you keep putting off
Your Next Step
If you want some support to help fast track this process, or help you transition to Dubsado, then can book a free systems audit with me so we can determine where to start, and what you need to get up and running with your workflows and systems.
Aerlie Wildy is a business designer. business coach and mother based in the Adelaide Hills. I specialise in designing and systemising business for growth. You can connect with me on Facebook, join my Chief Executive Entrepreneurs Facebook Group, check out my Youtube Channel or Pin with me on Pinterest.