Sometimes, workdays can be overwhelming. To-do lists seem never ending, the phone is always ringing and everybody finds their way to your inbox.
Other days might feel like there’s nothing on your list. But you feel like there should be. So you desperately search for things to do which drains more energy than it gives you.
In both these states of mind: what task should be first?
How do you prioritize?
How do you make the decision on what’s next?
First things first.
Let’s find out what a priority really is. What do we consider a priority?
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary it’s: “something that is very important and must be dealt with before other things.”
Oxford dictionary says: “The fact or condition of being regarded or treated as more important.”
The most important thing that you have to do before other things. That is a priority.
It’s clear. No question about that.
But how do you know what this most important thing is?
Following these 5 steps can help you.
Step 1: Have the big picture in mind
Always, always, always (!), keep the big picture in mind. Everything stands or falls with this perspective. The big picture is of course God’s Kingdom.
But the big picture is also the vision for your business. For example, solving homelessness in your neighborhood, or helping men in construction worldwide to eat healthy, or… Whatever purpose your business has.
If you can’t get that straight – and I know from my own experience that can be quite challenging to figure out – you won’t be able to prioritize the right things. If you don’t know the big picture, you don’t know the next steps.
If the big picture is not revealed to you yet, then try to think of the biggest goal within your reach.
Step 2: Connect
When we don’t know what to do first, the best thing to do first then is pray. Although we can come up with many excuses why not to pray when we are extremely busy, we need to carve out time to connect with God. We need to listen, we need to give attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying. I would recommend always doing this.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for You!’ Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come. (Mark 1: 35-38)
See, Jesus did it too.
And if early mornings don’t work because of your kids or other obligations, then take the first moment available when you can be alone.
Step: 3 Activity with highest ROI first
Do the most important activities first.
It’s the 80/20 Principle. If we focus our attention on our most important activities, we gain the highest return on our effort. And vice versa of course. In most cases business development is one of the most important tasks. Not many of us like it. So do it first. Get it out of your way and move on to the second most important thing on your list.
Remember that activity doesn’t equal accomplishment. Your goal should never be simply to stay busy.
Step: 4 Schedule
Now, write down on paper what your schedule for the day will look like. Apparently, when we write something down it becomes more real and powerful. Somehow, the effect of putting something in your online calendar is way less effective.
Obviously, your priorities will be at the top of the page.
Schedule and prioritize what you need to do first. Then the requests of others can be filled in in the empty spots that are left.
Step 5: Too many priorities? 3 Q’s
In the event that you still have too many priorities on your list. There is one more thing that you can do. And that is answering the following 3 questions:
- What is required of me?
Separate your “must dos” from the “choose to dos”. There are really way less “must dos” than “choose to dos” when you look at it seriously.
2. What gives me the greatest return?
When you put efforts into it, what task will give you the most results/accomplishments? But also, is that a task suited for your or for someone else to do?
3. What gives me the greatest reward?
Look for the element of personal fulfillment. Yes, you are entitled to do the things you like. Especially if it happens to be a priority. God provides deep satisfaction when you do what He has gifted and called you to do.
Prioritizing is always a process of reflection and decision making. We feel a natural resistance to do either of those because it requires an effort. But in the end, that effort is well worth it!
When you are able to figure out which tasks will give you the highest return, the “game” actually becomes real fun!