THE REAL GOLD IS IN THE PRIORITIZING
In the previous post, you’ve just written down your huge list of specific baby tasks. Feel free to go back to it again, and write down absolutely any other specific action that comes into mind.
Remember what we said in the last section: no vague big tasks. It all needs to be broken down into action units. Your list should be quite long. At this point you look at your list and you start having a panic attack. You are feeling stressed and overwhelmed and start hating me for putting you in such a state.
Bare with me.
Am I going to tell you to tackle them one at a time? Of course not.
This is where you learn about priorities.
If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.
HACK AWAY THE UNESSENTIAL
From now on, it’s not the hours you put in its what you put in the hours, reasonable time is enough time. – Jim Rohn, 2001.
I think that one of my biggest lessons while researching was the following: life is about doing less.
Until a few months ago, I was one of those “juggling hamsters sprinting towards an inevitable crash landing” (Rory Vaden, 2015). I would just push myself in doing everything, instead of just press pause, think and believe that there must be another way than the method I was using.
And there is. You will realize below what part of your list must be tackled by you, by someone else, or just be deleted.
It all starts with Eisenhower’s Matrix, also referred as the Urgent-Important Matrix, mentioned in Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1988).
It basically helps you prioritize tasks by urgency and importance.
We live in a time pressured world where it is common to have multiple overlapping commitments. Moreover, they all require immediate attention now. “Urgency is no longer reserved for special occasions, they are an everyday occurrence“.
So how can one manage the flood of responsibilities, do excellent work and maintain a positive frame of mind?
I use the Matrix in order to classify my monster to do list, like so:
- In Quadrant 1 (Q1) I list all the important and urgent tasks
- Quadrant 2 (Q2) is for all the important and non-urgent tasks
- In Quadrant 3 (Q3) I list all the non-important and urgent tasks
- In Quadrant 4 (Q4) I list all the non-important and non-urgent tasks
It is very important to be as objective as possible whilst doing this exercise.
Covey spends a lot of time working with this model and emphasizing that we should aim to spend our time in Quadrant 2. This is where you focus on activities that are important to your values and long term goals.
The urgent things are often those things that keep us away from focusing on what is important. These are where the monstrosity of your to do list comes from.
You run around all day convincing yourself that you’ve been productive when in fact all you’ve done is chase short term, unimportant urgencies that will keep coming back, and from which you’ll get no peace *insert poignant sound for more dramatic effect*.
SLAYING THE MONSTER LIST
We can multiply our time by giving ourselves the emotional permission to spend time on things today that will give you more time tomorrow.
We are finally ready: we have all the tools to cut this monster list in half (at least). I want you to take a look at your Q4… for the last time.
Make sure that the tasks on there have been well placed by going through it and ask yourself “can I eliminate it?” and “Is it even worth doing?”.
“Next generation time management has much more to do with what you don’t do, that what you do. They realized that perfection is achieved not only when nothing more can be added but when nothing more can be taken away. It is the permission to ignore. Because anything that we say no to today, creates more time for us tomorrow. The challenge is to challenge our guilt, and saying no more often as we usually go through life trying to never say no.“
This for me was gold, which is why I quoted the whole text… Can you guess what I am going to tell you to do? Delete Q4.
All of it.
There is absolutely no point in putting yourself through unnecessary tasks that don’t get you one step closer to your goals. So just say bye, once and for all.
If these tasks involve other people, or letting others down, pick up the phone and explain that something has come up for that particular date and that you won’t be able to attend, that you’re sorry and that you hope it doesn’t cause too much inconvenience. Some of you hate confrontation. Well it’s time to get right into it as it’s an essential part of life, dealing with other people. The earlier you start, the closer you’ll be to being the boss you truly are.
No excuses, this is where the notion of responsibility kicks in: you have the responsibility of defending your time from these unimportant tasks to develop yourself and create the life you want to see yourself living in.
The reason why people don’t want to take responsibility for their time is because after doing so, they are not allowed to complain about their schedule and time allocation.
Commit to never complain and take control: it is quite empowering. Next time say no so that you don’t have to experience the awkwardness of what you are about to do.
I recently learned about the opportunity cost of saying yes: by saying yes, you are saying no to hundreds of other options. You are spending an hour that will never be spent again.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not suggesting we shouldn’t help other people. I am just highlighting that some people often put others needs before their own, and in doing so, they’re maybe losing the opportunity to experiment in what they love and losing the opportunity to reach their dream life.
Not only that, but you are adding stress to your life and losing time when thinking of an excuse to wiggle out of the commitment you made. By saying no from the beginning, you avoid all the awkwardness and also save the time of the person you are helping as they’ll probably will have more time to find someone who is better placed than you to help them out.
To conclude: stop over-committing and “Don’t let your mouth overload your back” (Jim Rohn, 2001).
Q3 also represents tasks that are unimportant. However, they are urgent.
In these types of situations, I try my best to delegate or automate.
By automate I mean to find a piece of software that can do the hard work for you. For instance, if you are the Marketing Secretary for a society at university, and you need to take care of social media, instead of wasting time posting every day, you schedule all of your posts at once in an online service such as Buffer or Hootsuite. These services will post them at the scheduled time and you will not have to go on social media again.
By delegate I mean to find someone who can do the unimportant (but urgent) chores for you.
For instance, I realized that I had to edit 80 pictures for a photography gig I stupidly accepted to do for only 30 dollars. It is an unimportant job as it won’t get me anywhere and doesn’t challenge my creativity. However it is quite urgent that I edit the pictures as I made a commitment which I can’t wiggle out of. Since I want it off my list, I reach out to a fellow photographer and propose to him to take 15 dollars out of my pay so that he can edit the pictures. If he’s inexperienced, he can have my authorization of using the pictures in his empty portfolio, as this would help him with his freelance activity.
Every time I am confronted with Q3 tasks, I ask myself “can I delegate it?”, “can I automate it” and “can I teach someone else to do it?”.
You should be answering yes more often than not.
Remember this: any item that answers “no” to these two questions:
- “is it important” and
- “can this only be done by me”,
is not meant to be in Quadrant 1 or 2.
As explained by Covey, this is where we focus on activities that are important to your values and long term goals. Our aim is to spend most of our time in this quadrant.
These are important task but not urgent, therefore the more time we spend in this quadrant, the less likely the important tasks become urgent (Quadrant 1) and that means that we have less stress on our shoulders.
Q1 is the quadrant we want to attack first thing when we get up so that it’s out of the way.
Since they are both important and urgent, we can’t tackle them last. It requires discipline and I will explain exactly to get some in the Doing section.
In conclusion, the actions to undertake are the following:
- put all of Q4 in the bin: make the necessary calls to deal with the side effects of that decision and make a mental note to never put yourself in that position again.
- get rid of as much as Q3 through delegating and automating,
- attack Q1 first thing in the morning
- aim to spend most of your time on Q2
You should already feel lighter.
When I did this for the first time, I felt better, yes… but the list was still long. I knew that I could take away more, I just didn’t know how.
The next principle we are going to cover will help you understand further this manifestation of more time by following third dimension: significance.
Its not the daily increase but the daily decrease.
Pareto’s Principle is also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity, and is by far my favorite principle. It will clarify how you should cut down your to-do-list even more.
It basically states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Moreover, you can transform this the way you want:
- 80% of the output from a given situation or system is determined by 20% of the input;
- 20% of your research creates 80% of your essay;
- 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts;
- 80% of sales come from 20% of customers.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOU
In our case: 80% of our productivity will come from 20% of our achieved tasks.
Can you see where I’m getting at? It is so much more effective to work on the vital few that on the trivial many, fun, easy and irrelevant tasks.
If you struggled to scrap items out of your to do list in Q4, try and ask yourself now: “which 20% of my tasks are more likely to help me achieve the 80% of my results and fulfillment in my life?” and “what is this task really adding to my life?”.
Something that Professor Randy Pausch (2008) added was that this rule takes courage as you need to have good judgement of what’s that 20% is. That will come with experience and experience sometimes comes with bad judgement.
No two tasks ever hold the same importance.
WHAT TO DO
Therefore encourage you all to:
- find that 20%
- circle the 20%
- focus on that 20%
Put aside the rest or eliminate the tasks you haven’t circled.
It is normal to not be able to delete the remaining 80%. We are wired to want 100% of our list to be achieved. It is very much against our nature to let go of the 80%, especially if we find those tasks easier.
What I ended up doing to help me get through this task was just creating a new list and named it “the 80% of my to-do-list” and I would tell myself that “I would do it after doing that 20%”.
The more you get used to eliminating, the faster you will achieve your goals and the more goals you will be able to pursue.
Most people do not even get to achieve one of their big ambitions precisely because they don’t follow this painful (or, for some, delightful) task of eliminating the fluff, off their to do list.
Only ever work on the thing that will have the biggest impact. – Jason Cohen, @asmartbear
By now, you should be standing with a considerably reduced list of tasks to perform. These are the absolute essentials and vital few to perform and do asap. Now all you need to do is jump into the next section where you will learn about the different methods I use to get things done.
HOW CAN WE CAN HELP EACH OTHER (ONLINE OPPORTUNITY)
If you are struggling to find experience and are interested in Copywriting, Marketing or Entrepreneurship then we are looking for people to become editors of this website. I will form you and teach you everything I know. If you want to get involved with this blog then please do not hesitate to contact me via this Contact Form or via my Instagram account. This is a unique opportunity. Again, you can contact me for more details on how this may help you!
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR YOU
Over the years I have created many guides and checklist that aim to help you save time. Here are a list of them just in case you might miss out on a few:
- My 1st E-Book: a resource that has help me become a boss at Time Management. Moreover, it has also helped me create more time for what I love and get to my goals faster. It is lengthy, however it is arguably the best Time Management piece of research out there.
- The Time Management Actionable Sheets: a summary of my E-Book. These sheets have conserved the absolute essential actions you need to take to make the most out of your time. Do not skip any steps!
- My Before & After CV Transformation: a resource that has collected my CVs for the past 7 years to help you not only craft a great CV, but to also show you that everyone can start mediocre and grow exponentially.
- How To Land a Job Faster Guide: a resource that aims to give you all of the tips and recommendations I have used during my career. This will help you avoid some common mistakes students do when starting off with their job applications.
MY OBJECTIVE IS AND WILL FOREVER BE TO HELP YOU
To conclude, the aim of this website is to help you have the best fresh start at University and with your career. There is nothing that gives me more happiness and joy but to hear your positive feedback on how helpful my content has been. Contact me if you have any feedback for me!
BEST OF LUCK WITH IT ALL!!!!