One of the most common challenges my clients face is prioritizing their time. I find this hard and I suspect we all do. A recent conversation illustrates this. My client explains they are not able to get everything done that needs to get done. Sound familiar? As their coach, it is easy for me to explain the need to prioritize. For recipient this isn’t so easy.
The fact of the matter is they are not able to get everything done that needs to be done. In effect, they are already prioritizing because some things are not getting done. The problem is their process is unconscious. They are letting the universe prioritize for them. That usually leads to a sub-optimal outcome.
Why is it so hard to prioritize?
When I explain this, they recognize the need to prioritize, but they still find it hard. The same client noted, ‘I have to get all of these things done’, and choosing was very difficult for them. In contrast, it was very easy for me to challenge every item on their list to help them decide. Is this because I am a prioritization guru? No, it is because I am not emotionally involved. It is easy for me to take each item at face value and make a judgment call. I don’t have to face the emotional consequences of saying no to some things.
The same is true for myself. I find it difficult to prioritize because I am emotionally committed to the things I need to do. So what can we do to improve our ability to prioritize?
The first thing is to create a prioritization schema or set some criteria. Do this when you are relaxed and not feeling stressed. Definitely not when you have to make a decision. When we are not stressed, our emotional attachment is lower and we can make a better decision. When we need to prioritize, we can use our criteria.
If the first item isn’t working, enroll the help of a friend who isn’t so emotionally involved. The less involved the better. Ask them to help you prioritize. When you have to explain our reasoning, we can quickly develop new perspective. And the friend can help us break a deadlock by being the decision maker.
My last recommendation is to make sure you leave some spare capacity. This is useful for handling the unexpected things that will come up. It is also nice to finish everything on the list and maybe have time to spare. How would that feel?