5 Tips for Prioritizing What’s Important (Not What’s Urgent)

We live in an always-on world, where a constant stream of information begs for our immediate attention. Without the ability to recognize and rank what’s truly important, we risk spending our lives in a reactionary state. Stress becomes a constant. We lose focus, and, with it, energy and creativity.

We’re busy, but we aren’t getting anywhere.

The ability to distinguish between things that are important versus simply urgent is essential to effective leadership in the 21st century.

Important tasks are things that contribute to your long-term goals. Developing a relationship with a strategic partner is important. Answering an email the second it appears in your inbox? In most cases, that’s allowing the urgent to rule your time and attention.

5 tips for prioritizing what’s important:

  1. Make a weekly plan. At the beginning of each week, make a list of the top three things you want to accomplish in order to make progress on your most important goals. Next, make sure you have at least 30 minutes set aside each day to focus on these priorities.
  2. Take a deep breath. There is power in pausing. When an email pops into your inbox or your phone starts ringing, that’s your cue to take a deep breath. Ask yourself, “Does this need my attention right now?”
  3. Set aside dedicated time for email. Try limiting the time you spend reading and responding to email to certain times of day. When you find yourself checking email as a default activity between meetings or every time you get back to your desk, ask yourself, “Is this really the best use of my time right now?”
  4. Keep an energy journal. For one week, note the times of day you feel most energized and creative (and the times you feel most depleted). Next, set aside time on your calendar during your most energetic times of day to work on the most important tasks on your plate.
  5. Hang in there. It’s human to get swept up in the urgent. There’s a reason we organize Leadfully by “Practice”: Tapping into your full potential as a leader doesn’t happen overnight. It takes continued effort, and that takes guts. So give yourself a pat on the back for trying, and remember, you aren’t alone.

We wish you luck putting your priorities first! And remember, our daily emails offer ongoing support to unlock the great leader within you.