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How to Prioritize in Four Simple Steps

How to be more focused and intentional with work.

Have you ever found yourself "yes-ing" your boss, your loved ones, even yourself which meant compromising your time, energy and everything else on your already full plate?
You're not alone.

Saying no, then, actually creates boundaries and opportunities to inevitably say yes to ourselves. When we say no to someone, even if it's as small as meeting up for coffee during an inconvenient time, we're saying yes to the project or other people at hand, sometimes even ourselves.

I read this Harvard Business Review blog post by Tony Schwartz, author of Be Excellent at Anything, covering four simple ways to create a better prioritized and more focused life. Better to live a life by design rather than default!

1. Organize your calendar for anything that's important but not urgent. According to the blog post, this is taken from Stephen Covey, but if it feels urgent you'll likely get it done. The key, then is becoming consistent with your actions, building rituals that you do on a constant basis. Ritual becomes habitual! For instance, schedule time on your calendar to brainstorm at the same time every day.

2. Set aside to reflect upon the day. The post referenced at least 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the day as you conclude your final activity at work. Outline the most important tasks to get done the following day. By doing this, you'll not only prioritize while it's fresh on your mind, you'll recognize the sense of importance when you tackle it first thing in the morning.

3. This leads into the next task: "Do the most important thing on your list first when you get to work in the morning, for up to 90 minutes," writes Schwartz. While it's easy to get lured into the fast pace of e-mail or social media, he recommends keeping the inbox shut down and your cell phone on silent. The more you're focused, the more you'll get accomplished. When you're done, of course, take a break.

4. That said, be sure to take breaks! "Take at least one scheduled break in the morning, one in the afternoon, and leave your desk for lunch. Take at least one scheduled break in the morning, one in the afternoon, and leave your desk for lunch. These are each important opportunities to renew yourself so that your energy doesn't run down as the day wears on. They're also opportunities to briefly take stock."

The author leaves us with the following thoughts: Did I accomplish what I set to get done since the last break and if not, why not? Secondly, he poses the question: "What do I want to accomplish between now and my next break, and what do I have to say "no" to, in order to make that possible?"
Hmmmm, just some food for thought...