August is all about work-life balance here in my blog and in order to maintain a healthy balance between your work and your personal life, you need to learn one important skill. It’s called prioritization. In my opinion prioritization should be something you learn at school but unfortunately this isn’t the case just yet. That means you need to learn it by yourself. Fortunately, this isn’t as hard as it sounds.
Do you know the feeling when you get home after a long day at work and still feel like you achieved nothing? Trust me, I know. And I bet you know as well. We all have those days when we keep ourselves busy without really completing any important tasks. It’s so easy to keep yourself distracted by checking emails, scrolling down your Instagram feed or completing those nice and little tasks from your to-do list. But guess what? That’s not really you working for your dreams. That’s simply you procrastinating. Sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. No one has ever built an empire or left a legacy by checking their email in every 5 minutes. That’s why you shouldn’t try to do it either.
Learning how to prioritize is important if you ever want to
- Be more productive
- Stop working long hours
- Get some sh*it done
So, I bet we both agree that learning to prioritize things is pretty important, right? Yep, let’s get started then. Now I’m going to share my favorite productivity/prioritizing method with you guys. You may have heard about it already. It’s called 80-20 rule or “Parento principle“.
The art of prioritization: The 80-20 rule explained
Have you ever heard about 80-20 rule? It’s the one rule that totally changed my own perspective when it comes to prioritizing things. It simply means that in any situation, 20 percent of the inputs or activities are responsible for 80 percent of the outcomes or results. This is actually a mathematical formula created by economist Vilfredo Pareto back in 1906. This means that if you take a look at your to-do list, chances are just a few of those tasks really matter. I know that it is very satisfying to complete those small tasks but in order to stay productive and really get something done, you should prioritize. Which simply means you should focus on those larger items that will generate the most significant results. Not all tasks are equal, just remember that.
I used to be one of those girls who always wrote those super long to-do lists. I really enjoyed crossing items off from that list but the problem was that I really treated all those tasks like they were equal. That’s why I usually completed those little and easy tasks first and procrastinated with the larger ones. Of course, those large tasks were the most important tasks as well and this kind of approach really hurt my productivity. So, the lack f prioritizing was really hurting not only my career but my work-life balance as well.
Fortunately, after reading about 80-20 rule I understood I had a problem. I was able to identify it and then I simply changed my habits. On my blog post about working long hours, I told you that today I only write down 3 goals for each day. And even though it would be tempting to include things like “order business cards” or “send an email to my coworker about *topic here*” in my list, I always try to ask myself if this thing will make any real difference.
How to identify your priorities?
It’s not always easy to identify your priorities. Usually the bigger the task the more important it is, but this isn’t always the case. Let me tell you how I do it. In my own job, I have a lot of things to do everyday. I’m responsible of updating the company website, social media, creating print advertising, planning of marketing events, ordering and designing new marketing materials, drafting press releases and internal newsletter. Prioritizing things isn’t always easy, but it’s manageable. When I think about my typical day, I should a) add new salesman’s contact information to the website, design and create a print ad for tomorrows newspaper, update Facebook and instagram, order new beach flags and find out how much it would cost to order some new posters for the stores. How should I prioritize this list? What three tasks should I complete? Well, I simply ask myself these questions:
- Is there anything with a deadline? If yes, when is the deadline?
- When I think about the company, is there anything on my to-do list that will help my company to sell more?
- What part of my work is most visible for customers?
- What happens if I don’t finish this task today?
After asking myself these questions I decide to
- Design and create that print ad, because it has a deadline, it can boost sales and it is very visible to our customers
- Add new salesman’s contact information to our website, because it helps customers to contact the right person
- Create some content for social media, because it is visible to our customers
That means I would order beach flags and posters later when I have time, since the marketing event takes place in 4 weeks which means that completing these tasks today won’t make any difference.
What about other priorities in life?
Prioritizing things in your work helps you to maintain healthier work-life balance. But of course, prioritization is a useful skill when it comes to your life in general. The 80-20 rule works with this as well. If you’ve crafted your five-year plan, you should ask yourself what are the activities that will generate most of the results. What will make the biggest difference? Then focus on those activities. If your big goal is to win a marathon, then you should focus on your training and spend less energy for your career. Of course, you still need to work, but you probably won’t do much extra hours or improve your career related skills since training hard is your priority. That’s okay, if it is what you really want to do. Or if family is your priority, you want to focus on that rather than attending all those work-related networking events.
I think the most important thing to understand is that you can be anything but not everything. You probably won’t have enough energy to have 5 kids, to become a CEO of a billion dollar company and win a marathon. Prioritization is the key here. Focus on things that matter the most and ignore the rest. Of course, you don’t need to choose between a family and work, but maybe 5 kids and a very ambitious career is too much, especially with that marathon thing. So, prioritize your dreams and soon you’ll notice the results.
What kind of methods do you use for prioritization? Or do you have difficulties with prioritization? I’d like to hear about your experiences.