Updated: Nov 11, 2021
Have you ever created a goal, set up your to-do list to achieve that goal, and then gotten distracted watching YouTube videos or scrolling through Instagram? Trust me when I say I get it. Battling distractions and consistently pursuing one's goals can be tough, especially when you have a disorganized task list. Today, we are going to take action to improve this by explaining how to prioritize goals, how to organize tasks, and how to navigate distractions.
How to Prioritize Goals
Prioritizing one's goals is essential to creating a cohesive work strategy, especially when you are a small business with dozens of projects on the docket. It can be easy to brush aside your business goals when you focus solely on completing clients' tasks. That’s where goal prioritization comes in.
Our last article covered how to create value-driven goals and break down those goals into actionable steps. The same concept applies here. Once you have your list of actionable steps for each goal you have created, you can incorporate them into your task list.
How to Organize Tasks
Once you have your list of actionable steps to achieve your goals, you can combine them with the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks you need to perform to keep your business running and achieve your clients' goals. Before you start writing tasks down, let’s take a moment to get organized by following this process.
1. Create a Master List
When organizing tasks, you need to create a master list. Your master list should include each task you need to perform, the steps involved in completing that task, and the task's due date. While it may look overwhelming at first, it makes it a lot easier to organize your projects when they are all visible, just like how you did when you created your actionable steps to achieve your goals. You should have a single master list(goal task list & business/personal task list combined) by the time you are done.
We want to note that your business and personal tasks will constantly evolve. For example, as you gain new clients, you will add more tasks. By keeping a master list, nothing will ever accidentally get swept under the rug.
Additionally, make sure that your task list is located in one place, like a notebook or an app. Each time you get a bill in the mail, an email from a client, or a text message from a coworker, put it all in one place.
2. Assess Urgency
When creating your task list, the first items to complete should be the most urgent ones. Often, these tasks are due soon, appointments that need to be made, or bills that need to be paid.
A standard method for assessing urgency is following the "4 D's."
- Do: Complete the task ASAP
- Defer: Complete the task later (note the due date)
- Delegate: Assign the task to someone else (virtual assistant, employee, etc.)
- Delete: Remove the task from your list
3. Determine Effort
We know that the “Do” or urgent tasks need to be completed first, but what about those after that? For this, we recommend that you determine the amount of effort it would take to complete the task and organize it from there. Look at each task and estimate how long it will take to complete. Do you need to write a blog post? That might take 3 hours. Do you need to schedule an appointment? That may take 15 minutes. By determining how much time and effort a task is going to take, you can appropriately organize your tasks into your schedule.
Focus on Mind Set
After you have determined the effort involved in each of your tasks, you need to think critically about your own mindset. Every person works differently, and there is no concrete method that works for everyone. The easiest example is an early riser versus an afternoon person.
An early riser is at their best and brightest first thing in the morning. In their case, it would make sense to complete the hardest tasks first and save the easier tasks for the afternoon when they run out of energy.
The opposite would be true for an afternoon person. They may need to complete a few easy tasks first thing in the morning to get warmed up and then work on harder tasks in the afternoon.
You are the only person who knows how your brain works best. If you are unsure, try out a few different methods to see what works for you and then organize your schedule with a focus on your individualistic mindset.
Whatever your mindset turns out to be, remember to keep a balance. You certainly don’t want to schedule 5 three-hour tasks into one day. Additionally, if you have tasks that need to be scheduled for a specific time, like a 3 PM appointment with a client, then your other tasks need to be organized around that time.
4. Streamline Efforts
Bouncing back and forth between tasks is a waste of time. When you are working, you need to streamline your efforts by staying on one task until it is completed. It is critical not to get distracted (but we will address that in a minute). Additionally, when you are streamlining your efforts, try to clump similar tasks together. If you have to go onto an app to complete a task, do all the jobs for that app at one time.
5. Set Break Times
Even when you are on the right track for maintaining a successful day, powering through tasks, you still need breaks. Overworking yourself today often leads to a lack of motivation and progress for tomorrow. By scheduling break times, you are giving your brain and body a much-deserved rest.
When you schedule break times, we highly suggest the following:
1. Make sure you eat a healthy meal or snack.
2. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
3. Avoid screen time if you work a screen-heavy job.
a. Even if you don’t have a screen job, still take a bit of time to be off-screen.
4. Go for a walk if you have a desk job with lots of sit time.
5. Sit quietly if you have an active job that involved physical labor.
6. Take deep breaths, meditate, or have quiet time.
7. Go outside
8. Perform a personal task (like going to the bank)
a. Just don’t do so many that you use up your entire break.
9. Connect with others
Last but not least, use your whole break as often as you can. I know that it can be tempting to cut your break short because you "have so many things to do," but short-changing yourself not only hurts you but your business too. You have a break for a reason; use it.
6. Plan for Changes or Problems
I’ve said it before, and I'll say it again, life rarely goes according to plan. We can do our best to guess at the future, but we won’t know what’s going to happen until it gets here. That is why it is critical to plan for changes or problems.
I always recommend giving yourself a bit of wiggle room each day. By doing so, you will have extra time in case projects take longer than anticipated, communications get delayed, or any other myriad of problems that could occur.
If nothing goes wrong, then YAY, you can finish up the day earlier. But if something did cause a delay, then you won’t miss deadlines, have to stay late at work, or feel anxious if a project goes uncompleted.
7. Pre-Plan for the Next Day
At the end of your task list each day, have one task to pre-plan for the next day. You can move unfinished projects around, add new projects to the docket, or schedule in an unexpected meeting. By planning your day in advance, you will be able to walk into work the following day with a clear head and hit the ground running.
How to Navigate Distractions
I love scrolling through Instagram, playing with my dogs, and watching Netflix as much as the next person, but distractions do not lead to productivity. I know that it's hard to stay away from them, but here are a few tips on how to do it.
1. Prepare Your Workspace
Keeping your workspace neat, organized, and minimalistic helps to keep you focused. Never leave anything in your space that you know will distract you. This may involve investing in noise-canceling headphones, removing toys from your desk, or turning your phone to silent so you don’t see notifications.
2. Create Ground Rules for Family
If you work from home, you must establish your work times with your family. Spouses and children are incredibly distracting, and they likely do not even notice that they are so. You must establish ground rules to ensure that they don’t distract you.
I recommend having an office space that they can’t enter. If you have a separate workspace with a door, close it and maybe even leave a sticky note reminding them not to bother you unless it is absolutely vital. Plus, you can remind them that “if they wouldn’t call you at work about it, then they shouldn’t ask you here about it.” It’s a pretty easy rule to remember.
Lastly, if you are the type of worker who needs quiet to be productive, kindly ask your family to use headphones when listening to music, watching tv, or playing video games so as not to distract you.
And what about pets? That is tricky! If you have pets that need your attention for potty breaks or walks, make sure to put it in your schedule as a task. That way, they don’t get forgotten or neglected, and you get to be a good pet parent!
3. Turn Off Social Media
Social media is a productivity killer. If you find yourself getting sucked into scrolling, you must find a way to turn it off. This may involve turning off your phone, turning on a social media blocker during work hours, or just flipping your phone face down so you can’t see the screen light up.
4. Keep it Short
Parkinson’s law states that “work tends to expand to fill the time we have available for its completion.” So, if you give yourself an hour to write a letter, it will take an hour. But if you give yourself 20 minutes to write a letter, it will take 20 minutes. While this is not true of all tasks, it is an easy way for you to get distracted. Therefore, make sure you give an appropriate time estimation for each task (with just a bit of wiggle room) so that you don't draw it out unnecessarily and end up staring off into space.
5. Take Breaks
As we said above, breaks are critical to your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Often we get distracted because we need a break. Therefore, by scheduling break times, we take care of that need in a productive and controlled manner. It is recommended to take a short break every hour or after every big task in addition to your normal mealtimes.
6. Be Aware
We all know what distracts us in particular, and you have the power to not react. If you catch your mind wandering or your hand reaching for your phone, make an active choice not to do it and refocus on your task.
Set Goals and Prioritize Tasks with Me
Are you struggling to create goals, set tasks, and stay focused? It can be challenging to do, especially as a business owner or remote worker. That is why we have started the Froggy Hour!
Do you experience The Sunday Scaries and the Monday Morning Blues? Want to look forward to Monday Mornings or fight Sunday Scaries? If you answered yes, sounds like you can benefit from A Froggy Hour. Have you ever heard of the phrase eat that frog? It means to accomplish the thing that is the most unpleasant - get it done - out of the way & move on with your day.
It is something you should do FIRST thing in the morning. If you have any frogs or any tasks you hate to do & need or want accountability for, join me tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. EST.
This will be done over Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/5776873758
This is not a coaching hour or social hour. You log in just for accountability. The first five minutes you say what you're trying to accomplish & then you turn off your camera & go about your business. At the end of the hour we come back and check in with each other.