Today (and every day), I’m sure there are about 10 million things that are competing for your attention. Your phone is ringing, your to-do list is growing, and everything that pops up needs to be addressed NOW.
Being a blogger — and the seemingly endless task list that comes along with it — can be overwhelming. When you’re not sure where to start or what the most important thing to work on is, it can feel like you’re drowning in your to-dos.
I know I’ve been there. In fact, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m STILL there sometimes! When I don’t have my priorities straight, I feel like there are so many things to do that I don’t have the slightest idea of where to begin. It’s like everything is just swirling in my brain, and I don’t know how to organize or make sense of it all. My husband calls this feeling of overwhelm that I deal with “tornadoes”, and when I get lost in a tornado storm, you can pretty much guarantee I’m not getting a lot done.
What I’ve learned over the years is that the worst thing you can do with tornadoes is to leave them running free in your head. When you hold all your ideas, tasks, and to-dos inside, there’s no way to make sense of them. It’s impossible to figure out which are a priority and which can wait until tomorrow (or better yet, next week). When they’re in your head, all your tasks carry equal weight.
But when you get that tornado out on paper, you can look at each task or item on your to-do list side by side and figure out which are the most important and which you can put on the back-burner.
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If you don’t know what’s important and what will help you reach your goals, you will waste a ton of time and struggle with feelings of overwhelm.
So how do you prioritize?
Step 1: Brain Dump
As I mentioned, it’s important to get those tornadoes out of your head and onto paper. Write down every single task, commitment, and to-do list item that’s bouncing around in your head.
I’m not just talking about blog- or business-related things. Write down EVERYTHING — calling your children’s dentist to schedule an appointment, taking the car in to get the oil changed, getting your dog groomed — whatever tasks you have bouncing around in your brain (whether they are related to your personal life, family, or work). Write them down.
I like to physically write everything down and put pen to paper (I’ll talk more about my process and the worksheets I use shortly), but you could also use note-taking software like Evernote. Heck, you could even write it on the back of a receipt if you wanted to — just get it written.
Step 2: Prioritize Your Tasks
Once you have everything down on paper, it’s time to start organizing your tasks and putting them in order of importance. Assign every single task a number. No two items on your list can be equally important, so ties are not allowed.
This step can be challenging, especially if you’re dealing with tasks from multiple categories, like work, personal life, and family. You might have a task that is number one for your family, a task that is number one for your work, and a task that is number one for your personal life.
But there can only be ONE number one. Make yourself put EVERYTHING in order. Force your brain to start prioritizing and thinking about your tasks in a different way. Otherwise, everything will be competing equally for your attention and NOTHING — not your work, your family, or your personal life — will get the attention it deserves.
There are only 24 hours in a day, and it’s impossible to get EVERYTHING done. So you will need to make choices about what’s important. Numbering all your tasks and putting them in order will help you see what the right choices are without getting overwhelmed.
Step 3: Apply the 80/20 Rule
Once all your tasks are in order of importance, it’s time to apply the 80/20 rule.
For those of you who don’t know, the 80/20 rule is the principle that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your input.
In other words, you’ll see 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. And that’s just an estimate. Sometimes, the ratio is much higher. You might get 95% of your results from 5% of your efforts. The point is, a small percentage of your work will yield a high percentage of your results.
So, since there’s only so much time in a day, you need to look at your tasks and see which will yield the most results. Which tasks will be in that top 20%? What tasks will produce the biggest results for the amount of effort you put into them? Those are the tasks you want to tackle first.
Then rewrite your list with those 20% tasks and renumber them in order of priority. Choose your top four tasks and tackle those first.
In a perfect world, you’ll work through them in order — so start with number one and work your way down to number four.When you prioritize this way, you make sure that the tasks you’re working on will always be the tasks that give you the biggest results.
So, for example, I had about a gazillion things on my to-do list today. And if I hadn’t had my list that told me what my top priorities were, I might have spent a bunch of time working on tasks at the bottom of my list instead of focusing on that top 20% that gives me the most bang for my buck.
When I’m making my lists, I use one of two worksheets: The Daily Do-It or The Daily Focus Sheet. Both have an area for me to create my prioritized lists, but one thing that I love about The Daily Focus Sheet is that I can organize my tasks into “focus blocks” or chunks of time. So I’ll know that in Focus Block One I’ll be working on task X for 90 minutes, and then in Focus Block Two I’ll be working on task Y for 60 minutes, and so on.
Step 4: Just Do It
Once you’ve got everything down on paper and prioritized, it’s time for the hardest part. Now, you’ve got to actually DO it.
Because even when you’ve got your priorities straight and know exactly what you need to be working on, you’re not always going to feel like following through and doing it. But you’ve just got to buckle down and get it done.
Even if it’s hard, you can do ANYTHING for an hour. I promise. Even mind-numbing tasks or the ones that feel like they’re going to make your brain explode — you can do them for one hour at a time.
I like to set a timer for 60 minutes, sit down at my desk, and force myself to get things done. No breaks, no distractions. Just 60 minutes on the task at hand.
And the best part is that because I did that brain dump and got all those tornadoes out of my head, I’m able to focus, be present, and power through my tasks instead of being distracted by everything else that I need to do.
A Few Extra Tips for Making Every Hour Count
- You don’t need to do a brain dump every single day. I find that weekly priorities work great. That way, I have time to work through all the priorities on my list and check things off each day.
- Reorganize your priorities every morning. Write down a new list and get rid of all the tasks you’ve already completed. Seeing your priorities list get smaller can help with motivation. It’s great to get a visual reminder of how much progress you’re making!
- If you’re still not sure which tasks are the most important or what you should prioritize, it’s okay! Priorities will change, and it’s hard to determine what the next best thing to work on is. When you’re trying to figure out which tasks are the most important, ask yourself, “How will this task help me reach my goals?”
As a blogger, it’s hard to sift through the million and one things that are constantly demanding your attention. But prioritizing your tasks and focusing on what is most important to you, your business, and your goals is a game changer. It will help you be more focused and productive, and you’ll see bigger results without doing more work. It’s amazing!
So if you feel like your brain is full of tornadoes right now, make prioritizing a priority. Get it all out, put it in order, and knock those tasks off your list.