Finding the Main Priority in the Clutter of Your To-Do List
Do you ever feel like there are just too many things that you’re “supposed” to be doing well? It can really make that dreaded “to-do list” grow into an unmanageable beast! Here are some tricks to finding the MAIN PRIORITY in the clutter of your to-do list.
You see, a couple of years ago, my husband and I realized that we were wildly over-extended.
An analogy I used was this – It was as though every aspect of our life was a completely taught balloon. Any little bump or jostle, and it would immediately pop. Schedules, commitments, finances – even our kids’ commitments!
We needed to drastically do something, and it wasn’t going to be “shaving off 10 minutes of commitments here” and “freeing up 15 minutes there.”
We needed big, bold changes.
And so that’s exactly what we did.
We spent a season shoveling commitments off our plate. We sold some rental properties. We changed plans, quit things (sometimes good things!) and gained some margin back in our lives.
We also cut WAY back on our financial commitments. Because an endless spiral of “needing to work MORE so that you can pay for MORE was wearing us out.
Even though plenty of the things we were doing were good, they weren’t the priority. And the truth is, all of the other “good” things were squeezing the life out of our priority!
Simplifying is an attractive word these days. There’s a reason that decluttering books and blog posts are so popular!
It’s as though something in our soul longs for more clarity, more time, less stuff, less clutter.
Here’s a little factoid for you: The word “priority” comes from Latin, and it only exists in the singular. (Meaning ONE priority) It wasn’t until more recent years that we’ve developed the idea of plural “priorities.”
A sign of the times, perhaps? Maybe this mirrors our over-scheduled lives and lengthy to-do lists.
I would go so far as to say, when we have multiple “priorities,” we are much more likely to fail at ALL of them. Would you agree?
So, how do we decide HOW MANY things get to the top of our list?
Greg McKeown has an excellent book, Essentialism. One of the taglines for this book states that it’s “not about getting more done, it’s about getting the right things done.”
(This book is a GREAT read, by the way.)
I heard Greg McKeown on a podcast recently where he was asked this question:
“How many things get to the top of the list?”
He gave a little assignment to the audience that went something like this:
- Write down the TOP 6 things you need to do today – What absolutely has to be accomplished?
- Next, cross off the bottom 5.
- You now have your list.
Isn’t it true? No matter how many things I place on my list I can only accomplish about one truly well.
Another tactic that I learned from Donald Miller and StoryBrand is the idea of thinking of your day (or year!) as though you are living it again. Example: “If I could live today over again, here are the things I would do.”
The truth is, when we just write down what we need to do today, we tend to include the things that are URGENT. When we think in terms of “If I could live today over again…” we tend to put down things that are actually important and of VALUE to ourselves.
This trick gives wild clarity to what my priorities actually are!
Let me share with you a couple of tools that I’ve found helpful.
#1. The Storyline Productivity Schedule
This is a daily sheet that you can print out, plan out your day and your tasks. This was created by Donald Miller and StoryBrand, through a lot of research into how the brain actually works.
You’ll get to think of your day in reverse, automatically setting the tone for what’s truly important to you. You’ll get to create a to-do list, and then boil it all down to one main priority for the day.
#2. The Living Well Planner
This planner is not just a calendar, it’s like a get-control-of-your-whole-life tool. Seriously!
It starts out with planning tools for your year, really helping you to think through things you want to accomplish in each area of your life. Then it has you narrow it down to 3 Big Goals.
Each month, you break it down and go through a similar process at the beginning, identifying your 3 Big Goals for the month. Then, even further – you pick one main thing to focus on.
Then of course, there are calendar pages, and daily time block pages.
And as a bonus, when you purchase the planner, you get access to a website with some incredibly useful downloads. My favorites are the Weekly Wizard (which allows you to do this narrowing down of to-do tasks for your week). And also a daily sheet that you can use.
This has been the most useful planner I have found for helping me set my priority and seeing clarity in my days!
What about you? I would love to know how you narrow your priorities down!