If you have a focused, checklist-loving personality, you just might be able to fill a planner, half a dozen sticky notes, and even a full page of a notebook or legal pad with to-dos without a second thought. You probably wonder how in the world other people live without their checklists!
On the other hand, if you are a more spontaneous planner and checklists are not naturally your thing, the previous sentence very possibly made you feel as if you were breaking out in hives. Or maybe hyperventilating. Just a little bit.
Amazingly enough, you both stand on common ground in one very important way. No matter what type of planner you are, there is a single secret ingredient that will help you plan your way to success: prioritization.
The Importance of Prioritization
Whether you create a checklist a mile long each day or you keep the checklist to a minimum, the one element that creates success is prioritizing. By listing tasks in order of importance, you greatly improve your ability to accomplish the task.
Here are some ways to prioritize and keep you on a solid track:
Write out your to-dos as they come to mind, noting whether they must fit on a specific day or on a general to-do list. Each morning, revisit your lists. Start with the daily tasks and number the items on your list from most important (number 1) to least important. Then review your general list and make sure that everything there is prioritized. Make note of any items from the top of that list that need to be accomplished today.
If you struggle with making a list in the first place, it can be overwhelming to try to implement the number system. So, focus instead on the discipline of just writing something down. Take an index card and write down the most important task you need to accomplish today. Grab a magnet and stick the card on the refrigerator or some other “in-the-way” place. By seeing the reminder often, you’re more likely to accomplish the task.
Your struggle might be on the opposite end of the spectrum, with your list so long that it’s hard to prioritize and easy to get sidetracked. Focus your energy by creating a separate, limited list. Choose three tasks—and only three tasks—from your big list and number them in priority order. Your efficiency will increase if you’re not distracted and sidetracked by a bunch of little, less important tasks.
Free Your Mind
Sometimes we have tasks that aren’t necessarily the most important, but they do consume our thoughts, making it hard to focus on the more important priorities. If that’s the case, then acknowledge that freeing up your focus is actually your most important task! Take care of that nagging responsibility so that you will then have the mental and emotional focus needed to tackle the priority responsibilities.
It can be hard to prioritize when everything on your list has to be done. If this is the case, categories sometimes help. For instance, if there are items that can be done in under ten minutes, these can go into a “quick tasks” category. You can create additional categories like work or homeschool, home management, or personal tasks. Prioritize within those categories, then set time blocks for focusing on each one.
Are you a focused or spontaneous planner? Take our Planner Personality Quiz to learn more about what kind of planner you are!