One of the best ways to feel organized and productive is to manage your priorities, and have a plan to get them done. One of the best ways to feel unorganized and unproductive is to have a to do list with no direction, and no idea where to start. This is where prioritizing comes in handy, but let’s face it a lot of the time everything feels like a priority – at least that’s how it sometimes feels to me!
Narrowing down your to do list by prioritizing is a great way to help you be in control of your time and your schedule. There is another upside to setting great priorities, and that is the satisfaction and freedom you feel when your priorities have been met. But, in order to get to that place, you first have to figure out what your priorities actually are. If you are feeling stressed, overloaded, or frazzled, it’s really hard to set that list, so here is an exercise that I use to help.
The Brain Declutter
Paper & Pen (or pencil)
Highlighters – 4 different colors
A Timer (phone or other)
The Right Environment:
Find a spot where you are comfy, it’s quiet, and you won’t be interrupted.
How to Purge Your Brain:
- Set your timer for 5 minutes.
- Start writing.
- After you start your timer spend those 5 minutes writing down everything that comes to mind. Don’t think too much about it, just write it down. Some may be things you need to do, some may be things you have to find, or even random thoughts. Just keep writing until your timer tells you to stop.
- When time is up grab your highlighters.
Categorize What You Wrote:
- Start with color #1 – Go through the things you wrote and use this color to highlight everything that is a random thought. These are the items where no direct action is needed, it was just something random that popped into your mind.
- Grab color #2 – Go through the items again and highlight only the three items that are the absolute most important things that you wrote down. Really think about it because you are only highlighting three!
- Color #3 – Of all the items that are left, use this color to highlight things that are long-term goals, wishes or dreams. These may have an action associated with them, but won’t necessarily need to be on your to do list right now.
- Color #4 – Continue going through the last of the thoughts and highlight what items are to do list items.
Decluttering your brain helps to get all those random thoughts out in the open where you can make more sense of them. And, by highlighting only those three most important items you have identified the priorities that you can use to create a great plan. Picking only three doesn’t devalue the other items on your list. When you are planning your week, or deciding what to tackle on your to do list, having set priorities helps you to become more focused and more productive.
When I first started doing this I would do the same exercise at least once a week. After a while I found that it became easier to track my tasks and priorities without having to go through this exercise. Now, if I find myself stressed, ideas and thoughts racing around my brain, or when I can’t shut off, I will use this technique to once again create some order in my life.
Give it a try, and please let me know how this has helped you with your own prioritizing.