3 Simple Practices To Identify Priorities and Get More Things Done

3 Simple Practices To Identify Priorities and Get More Things Done

We all want – and need – to get things done. But sometimes that seems to be challenging for some of us.

Do you put things on your “to-do” list (whether that’s a real list or just in your mind) that never seem to get accomplished?

Most of us do. I certainly struggle with it sometimes. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a big task (write that book) or something smaller (clean up the back yard).

The bottom line is, regardless of what the task is, we all need to get things done.

Often times I seem to just get to the things that are either:

  • enjoyable
  • easy
  • earth-shatteringly urgent (I don’t think ‘shatteringly’ is a word, but you get the idea)

Why is that?

I’m not overly certain, but it seems to be the case with most people I talk to.

Here are 3 practices I try to use when I’ve got something I really want or need to accomplish:

First things first; Focus; Finish.

3 Simple Practices To Identify Priorities and Get More Things Done

1. First Things First. 

We first need to figure out what needs to be done first! This might seem obvious, but I think a lack of clarity of what’s truly important – along with fear and/or uncertainty in how to do it – is actually what often prevents us from accomplishing many tasks. 

There are a few things which might determine what is most important:

  • Those things which your supervisor may have identified as most important.
  • Those things which you can do in support of others so they can accomplish what is most impactful.
  • Those things which you can do to create impact yourself.

Of course, in order to these things, you’ve got to know what’s important and/or impactful.

Once you do, these are the things that must be focused on first – first things first! 80-90% of what’s on our “to-do” list is relatively unimportant. The top 10-20% should make the “first things first” list and that is what we ought to start with and spend most of our time focusing on…which is the next step.

(Of course, a great place to learn more about putting first things first is with that classic by Stephen Covey, First Things First.)

2. Focus. 

We live in a world of distraction. In order to accomplish something – even the most menial tasks – we’ve got to learn to FOCUS. The idea of multi-tasking is a myth (blog post coming soon on that, but here’s a great book that speaks about it if you’re interested), so stop doing it. Focus on one thing at a time. Create the work environment that allows you to do this. Use tools to help keep you focused. And, perhaps most of all, don’t get distracted by trivial things that don’t matter. 

“We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” Robert Brault

Without some amount of focus (and the larger the task, the greater the focus needed) you will never accomplish much of anything. See this post for ideas & tools you might use to overcome distraction and focus better. 

3. Finish. 

“The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anyone can start something. We all start things all the time. 

But too often we fail to finish. Or, at least, we fail to finish in a timely manner. 

In order to accomplish something you need to not only start it, but finish it. 

Ironically, starting and finishing are very closely linked. Here are a few ideas to consider at the start that will make it more likely that you’ll finish

  • Carefully consider what you start – is it necessary and is it important? 
  • Do you have the time, energy and resources available to complete it?
  • Are you willing to do it imperfectly? 
  • Have you answered the questions from point #1 (Figure)? 
  • Have you set yourself up for finishing by creating an environment where you can focus? 

In my experience, it is the unfinished tasks that cause me stress. If I get to the end of the day realizing that I’ve allowed it to get away from me, it’s hard to relax or focus on other things. Finishing is not only important for the sake of accomplishing the task, but also for sake of my sanity! 

Of course you need to find your own method of accomplishing whatever it is you want to accomplish. But almost any system needs to include some version of these 3 simple practices:

First things first; Focus; Finish.

What have you learned that helps you accomplish
what you need to accomplish? 

(please share in comments below)

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