Here’s how setting priorities for your day can make your day MORE productive and LESS stressful.
Most people think making their day more productive also means ADDING stress to the day. That doesn’t have to be the case. By setting priorities for your day, you can actually become MORE PRODUCTIVE and LESS STRESSED at the same time.
Setting priorities for your day allows you to -
1 — Determine your most important tasks (MIT’s) that need to get done that day
2 — Set realistic expectations for what you can accomplish in a day
3 — Stay focused throughout the day
4 — Stay motivated throughout the day
5 — Enjoy a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day
6 — Rest and recharge
Determine Your Most Important Tasks (MIT’s)
I’m a big fan of Zen Habits and thought I’d let them take the lead on describing why determining you MIT’s is important—
“In the context of procrastination, it’s easy to put off doing important things by doing a lot of smaller tasks, or incoming tasks that might seem urgent. But that means the important stuff gets pushed back.
Picking an (MIT) means part of your job is done: you know what you should be working on, and you know that if you’re not working on it, you’re procrastinating. So then all you have to do is start (we’ll get to that next week).
Picking out an (MIT) means you have thought through your priorities, and you know what makes the biggest difference in your work and life in general.
It’s also a rewarding way to start your day — pick a Most Important Task, and get it done!”
Set Realistic Expectations
I don’t know about you, but I always seem to set unrealistic expectations for myself, when it comes to thinking about how much I can get done in the day. In the morning, the day’s potential seems limitless.
However, as the day progresses, the reality of time begins to emerge. As a result, I always find myself feeling like I’m falling behind where I should be, which results in stress piling up throughout the day.
I’ve come to the conclusion that setting a maximum of 3–6 priorities for the day is the right number of tasks we can realistically expect to accomplish in a day.
3 work MIT’s and 3 administrative or personal MIT’s seems to be the right mix, to match the level of effort required to get the tasks done and the amount of time and brainpower available to us each day.
(BTW, since reading Your Brain at Work, by David Rock, I truly believe that we only have a finite amount of brain processing power available to us at any given time and that it needs to be recharged on a regular basis.
David also suggests that it’s important to reserve time to set priorities, to maximize the brain power processing resources available to us.)
Stay focused throughout the day
OK, so that’s all neat and tidy right?
How about when the distractions of the day start to hit fast and furiously and the day starts going off the rails…THEN WHAT?
Well, I’m glad you asked :)
When that happens, which it does and will, come back to your list and bring your focus back to your priorities.
You may be surprised at first how difficult, yet at the same time rewarding, returning to your list of priorities really is. Your list of priorities quickly become the anchor in the storm of your tumultuous day.
Stay Motivated Throughout the Day
You know, there’s something intrinsically satisfying about the simple act of checking off an MIT from your list of priorities as you complete it. Doing this simple act helps you stay motivated throughout the day by giving you -
- A boost of endorphins
- The satisfaction of getting something accomplished
- The motivation to move on to the next task, unless that WAS your last task
Feel Accomplished at the End of the Day
You know that nagging feeling that starts to emerge as the end of the day approaches? The one that says you haven’t gotten nearly enough done today and now the day’s almost over?
The satisfaction of having completed (or even having ALMOST completed) your list of priorities chases that feeling away. You can now rest in the satisfaction that you’ve accomplished your most important tasks for the day.
I’m Done, Now What?! — Rest and Recharge
Wow! You’ve completed your list of most important tasks and it’s not even the end of the work day yet?
What do you do now with that restless feeling that tells you should do more…moRE…MORE?
Go do something to reduce your stress even further and increase your well-being like -
- Spend time with the important people in your life
You’ll now be able to do these things AND be present as you do them, since you can rest in the assurance that -
- Your MIT’s for the day are completed
- You’ll be setting tomorrow’s priorities tomorrow
This is so much more rewarding than -
- Constantly beating yourself up about not getting enough done during the day
- Fighting the urge to do more
- Worrying about what needs to be done tomorrow