Priority-Based Time Management ~ “Rocks, Pebbles & Sand”

Quick and easy time management hack that change your life- free training & printable.

Have you ever felt like you’ve gotten nothing done all day, even after checking 20 things off your list and you’d been “busy” almost non-stop? This used to happen to me ALL the time, (and there are times when it still does!) Today I’ll solve the mystery for you about why that happens. And guess what? It’s a super simple fix!

First Things First

Let me start by telling you a story. This is one I remember hearing years ago as a teenager, but was powerful enough for me at the time to have stuck with me so many years later.

I’ve been thinking about this story a lot lately since I’ve been working on a new time management course to share with you, and just couldn’t wait to share the story with you because I know you’ll love it too. I hope it resonates with you too, and that you can find ways to apply it to your own life and situation.

I actually didn’t remember where the story came from at first, but since I know that might be important for you to know, I did a little research and found that its original author is unknown, and that it has taken on many different forms and wording through the years. Since I’m an avid Steven Covey fan, I’ll share his version, which he shared in his book: “First Things First.”

I attended a seminar once where the instructor was lecturing on time. At one point, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He reached under the table and pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar. He set it on the table next to a platter with some fist-sized rocks on it. “How many of these rocks do you think we can get in the jar?” he asked.

After we made our guess, he said, “Okay. Let’s find out.” He set one rock in the jar . . . then another . . . then another. I don’t remember how many he got in, but he got the jar full. Then he asked, “Is that jar full?”

Everybody looked at the rocks and said, “Yes.”

Then he said, “Ahhh.” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He then dumped some gravel in and shook the jar and the gravel went in all the little spaces left by the big rocks. Then he grinned and said once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time we were on to him. “Probably not,” we said.

“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went in all the little spaces left by the rocks and the gravel. Once more he looked at us and said, “Is the jar full?”

“No!” we all roared.

He said, “Good!” and he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in. He got something like a quart of water in that jar. Then he said, “The point is this: if you hadn’t put these big rocks in first, would you ever have gotten any of them in?”

“The Big Rocks of Life”- Dr. Stephen R. Covey, First Things First

Awesome, right?

Let’s break it down bit together, because I want to make sure we fully understand the implications this story is trying to teach us. Watch the short video below, or read the breakdown if you prefer. Either way, don’t forget to download the free printable below to determine the “Rocks, Pebbles and Sand” of your own life, and begin outlining your own tasks and where they might fit most effectively within your day.

Watch It!

Read It!

(Most, if not all, of the information below is included in the above video, but I’ve included it here, in written form, for your convenience.)

So let’s break this concept down.

The Jar

Imagine for a moment, that your day is represented by an empty jar. You can’t get a bigger jar- you’re only allotted the space that fills the single jar. Everything you want to do each day must fit into the jar, or it doesn’t get done.

In the story, the facilitator had three different items that each demonstrated different things that need to be done in the day. Some are large, some are medium and some are small.

The Rocks

The rocks in your life represent the SUPER important things that HAVE to get done or you might face strict consequences for ignoring. Rocks are your most important, highest priority items- the items you NEED to finish during the day. The things that would have the most positive impact in your life.

The tasks or categories of task items that the rocks represent will be different for you than for everyone else, but here are some ideas.

  • Spouse or significant other
  • Your Kids
  • Faith or Religion – activity and personal study
  • Extended family
  • Your Health
  • Critical tasks with deadlines ending today

You get the idea. This is definitely not an exhaustive list. Certainly I left some things off that are most important to you, and maybe some of the ones I included don’t apply to you at all. These are just ideas of the types of “rocks” you might have right now, but your job is to look at your life and determine the things you NEED to accomplish today. These are your Rocks.

Follow along with me by downloading your free printable below, and set your rock type and priority system as we go.

Download the printable!

Determine your own personal priorities using the "Rocks, Pebbles & Sand" Time Management Technique.

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Pebbles

Pebbles are the secondary tasks or life categories- the things that you SHOULD do, but aren’t quite as important as the rocks. Or they could be things you want to do, but are less important than the things you’ve already labeled as Rocks. Some ideas are:

  • Work or School (you can always find a new job or retake a class if you need to, but you can’t get a new family, or a new body, or a new faith.)
  • Social circle (spending time with friends is always fun and even necessary for personal growth and care, but for you, should it come before your health and your family? You decide.)
  • Community projects like volunteering at a shelter or helping out in your kid’s school or church.
  • Other Important tasks that might not need to be completed today, but that you’d like to do if you can.

Like before, you’ll have to look through your list and decide which things are of mid-range importance. Which things, though they could be important, can be pushed or moved to a different day if necessary, or even just abandoned all together (if it came to that?)

Your Grains of Sand

These are the things you do for fun. To “de-stress”. Things that are optional or have less impact on your overall goals. Things that you’ll do if you can get to it, but are simply less important than the “Rocks” or “Pebbles” of your life.

These tasks are small and seemingly unimportant, but we tend to fill our day with them without realizing it, because they’re easy and give fill us with “instant gratification” from completing “quick wins”. They make us feel that just because we’re checking a bunch of stuff off our list, we’re automatically being productive.

These are things that, though we need some fun in our lives, they can essentially be removed without too much impact on our overall goals and dreams. Things like:

  • Watching Netflix for three hours at a time.
  • Social Media
  • Hobbies & Crafts
  • Gaming
  • Small, optional tasks. (Only you can decide what’s optional and what’s not.)

Again, please don’t think I mean that these activities are inherently bad and have no place in our day- All I’m suggesting is that they alone shouldn’t completely fill your “jar”. Setting and maintaining priorities is essential to a happily balanced life.

The Jar of Life

Let’s now return to the Jar in the story, the Jar of Life. As you complete things during the day, you start to fill the jar with different sizes of items that represent the items or tasks on your schedule. Rocks for big tasks; Pebbles for medium ones, and grains of sand for the small, inconsequential ones.

The problem though, is that so many of us fill our day with the “small” stuff first. We do the “easy” things first. The “fun” things. The ones that give us the most instant gratification. I mean who doesn’t like a “quick win”, right?

But here’s the thing: if we put all the sand grains (small tasks) in first and then the pebbles (the medium tasks), the jar is going to be full before you even get to your “rocks” (big/important tasks). Even if you try to cram just a few of those rocks in anyway, everything starts spilling out onto the floor, and the most important things in your life are forgotten, neglected, or abandoned. It’s like suddenly it’s bedtime and you’re now left feeling like you really haven’t done anything important all day.

And here’s the important part:

This is why we’re feeling overwhelmed, guilty, unproductive, inefficient, stressed and lost in our lives. It’s not because we’re lazy or have no internal drive to complete what’s on our list- it’s just that no matter how many grains of sand you place in your jar, they’ll never make up for ignoring the “rocks” in your life.

Here’s the good news:

We get a fresh start everyday. Each day we’re given a brand-new empty jar, and we get to make a new plan on how we’re going to spend our day.

Things didn’t go well yesterday? Tomorrow’s your chance to start again. You’re not stuck repeating ineffective processes over and over. Figure out what you need to change, make the adjustments and never stop re-evaluating. Constant evaluation equals growth.

So let’s see what happens if we do the important stuff first.

If we put the “Rocks” of our life in first, they’ll all fit in easily. (Unless, of course, you’ve got too many rocks. In that case, you’ll have to choose some to reclassify into pebbles or sand. Your whole list can’t be “critically important”, because then nothing is. The value of an object is measured by it’s relation to others it’s next to. If everything holds the same value to you, nothing holds any value.)

Once you’ve got your rocks (your most important, highest quality items) in your jar, you can start to fill it with the NEXT highest prioroty items: your pebbles. The smaller, yet still substancial, though not as substancial as the previous rocks. They should fit in easily around the rocks, and you’ll be suprised how many can fit, even though the jar looks full with the rocks.

And finally comes the sand. Where you thought you wouldn’t find room, sand can always find a way to fit itself into a small space. Tiny little 15 minute bits of time that maybe couldn’t be filled with a rock or even a pebble. And yet… because they’re the “fun” things we look forward to, we still find a way to fit them in.

You see, the difference here is that the pebbles and sand, being smaller, are more flexible and can be moved around within the jar into places the rocks never could. This is why the rocks need to come first. The rocks are rigid, unchanging, unadaptable. Pebbles and sand are not. (Essentially meaning that you shouldn’t be compromising your family’s general safety or happiness in favor of fitting in a couple episodes of your favorite show.)

Keep in Mind

I know some aspects of this “Rocks, Pebbles, and Sand” metaphor can seem confusing or even contradictory. Here are some points of clarification, along with some things I want you to remember:

  • Though the story has many life-applicable teaching ideas, it is, at the end of the day, still an analogy. Please don’t take it too literally and try to sort your list by size (time it might take to complete) or try to stuff 100 things into one day because that’s how many literal rocks, pebbles, and grains of sand might fit into a jar. The items are used metaphorically to demonstrate how we can get more done when we focus on the important things first. It’s likely you won’t finish everything on your list every day, but that’s where the story shines- it teaches you to focus on the MOST important things first, so that IF things don’t fit into your jar, you know which to put in first.
  • You must choose your own tasks, categories, and priorities. Though I’ve given some examples of what works for me, you can’t go by my life completely. Start with my ideas if you’d like, but definitely take the time early on to determine what is most important to YOU. Without doing this homework, all further time-management techniques will be completely ineffective for you, because your life will have no personal progression or plan.
  • On the days you just can’t get all your pebbles and sand in the jar no matter how well you plan, don’t let yourself get frustrated. It’s perfectly ok, and it’s bound to happen more than once. That’s where this concept of the “Jar of Life” helps- the beginning steps of the exercise suggests that you choose your rock type for each item or category based on how important it is that it gets done TODAY. As long as you’ve completed all your “Rocks” each day, everything else is basically just a bonus, right? You can rest easy knowing you’ve done your absolute best within your personal circumstances.

I hope that you’re beginning to see the power this concept can have in your life- once you determine your BIG ROCKS, you’ll be able to see the things that you need to focus on FIRST in your life, setting the other “smaller” things aside until those most important things are tackled.

To help you do that, I’ve created a simple worksheet that you can go through in just a few minutes. It has spaces for you to determine and then record your Rocks, your Pebbles, and your Sand. Then, you’re prompted to make a plan on the changes you can make to ensure you’re filling your jar with your “Rocks” first every day. Download below.

To help you do that, I’ve created a simple worksheet that you can go through in just a few minutes. It has spaces for you to determine and then record your Rocks, your Pebbles, and your Sand. Then, you’re prompted to make a plan on the changes you can make to ensure you’re filling your jar with your “Rocks” first every day. Download below.

Download the printable!

Determine your own personal priorities using the "Rocks, Pebbles & Sand" Time Management Technique.

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Quick and easy time management hack that change your life- free printable.

Stuck? Unfocused? Overwhelmed & Unmotivated? Here’s Your Remedy

How to get unstuck fast when you're feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated- free tutorial and printable.

I’ve been feeling super unmotivated lately. Have you ever felt like that before? I have all these grand intentions to do all these wonderful and ambitious things with my life, but as soon as I get home from work all I want to do is sit on the couch with a bowl of ice-cream and binge episodes of my latest Netflix-obsession. Sound familiar?

Or, the times that I actually DO find the gumption to get up and attempt to be productive, I sit in front of my computer and get lost in the swarm of emails I need to address, projects I want to complete, and files I “still” haven’t completely organized. It seems like my “projects” list grows exponentially everyday, while any attempt to dive into it is thwarted by circumstance or my own self-indulgence.

I’m telling you, this kind of thing happens to us all- motivation seems to come in waves for most people. One day you’re feeling fired up and like you’re about to conquer the world (or at least your own personal dreams!) and the next you’re down in the slums with the rest of us. If your days seem like they’re more often in the latter, please don’t stress- you’re certainly not alone.

So what can we do? Certainly you’re not content with just “waiting it out” until your next good mood, right? Of course not! I highly doubt you’d be here reading this if you were.

Easy Trick When You’re Feeling Unmotivated

I suppose the good news that stems from the knowledge that I’ve lived this pattern so many times before is that I know there’s a simple fix to get back on track. Instead of waiting around for life to “get better” for you in that area (which, let me give you a little hint: it never does!), by doing this one thing, you can begin to take your future plans and life goals into your own hands and YOU decide where you’re headed.

What is it?

It’s a simple thing called “Weekly Goals”, which sounds so mundane, I bet you’re thinking: “That’s it? That’s your magic formula?”

Well it’s certainly no magic formula (unfortunately those don’t exist, but don’t I wish they did!), but it IS something that has helped me immensely when I’m stuck in a slog just like this.

I used to think that lack of motivation stems from laziness or lack of drive or initiative. And yes, sometimes it does. But I’ve found that quite often when I’m feeling my very familiar “avoidant” thoughts, it’s actually more often due to general overwhelm and a lack of clarity of my next steps. So even though I’ve had plenty of “lazy days” recently, I don’t really consider myself a “lazy” person. Once I can address the cause of my stress and overwhelm, I know my work ethic and drive will return- and probably, so will yours.

What does this look like?

Truthfully, it’ll look different for everyone, and rightly so. Everyone’s lives, goals, paths, purposes, missions, and priorities are all different. One person is not going to exactly fit inside the box of another. I’m going to share with you MY process and what it looks like for ME, but I encourage you to adapt it to fit your own needs and lifestyle. There’s no point in living a system if it’s ineffective in helping you become a better version of yourself.

Note: All of the steps below are outlined in the FREE video training “Weekly Goals”, along with printables you can use to complete the steps I outline in the training. Click on the link below to access the free training and printables, and watch your overwhelm & lack of motivation begin to fade.

Step 1: Determine Categories

Click the link above to download the printable. Once you confirm your email and receive your download link, you’ll be able to choose to download either a traditional printable (if you’re a pen and paper girl like myself), or a fillable PDF you can save over and over. (Really you can download them both, in case your needs adjust over time- this is also a common tactic).

Once you have your printable in hand, read the five life categories it lists in the boxes. If any of these categories don’t apply to your life, feel free to use the second page to fill in your own categories. My philosophy is to “make it work for you” – there’s no point investing time into something that won’t bring you closer to where you want to be.

Pick a couple areas of your life that you want to focus on for now. Remember: this choice is not permanent! You only need to live with it for a week. You may be tempted to try and pick a bunch of categories in your life (I’m describing myself here!), but I promise you, doing so will only bring MORE overwhelm and guilt to your life, not less. Instead, just pick a couple areas for now. Yes, I’m fully aware that you have a bajillion things you think you need to work on. But has trying to do them all at once ever worked for you? It definitely hasn’t for me! But starting off with a couple definitely HAS worked for me. This is how.

Step 2: Set Goals

For each category you chose in step 1, think of a small goal you can work on during the week. Don’t make it too big, or you’ll just set yourself up for frustration and guilt- neither of which are motivating, and both of which will make your overwhelm even worse.

Here are some basic goal-setting tips:

  • Your goals should be small and manageable. This should be something you can tackle in a week.
  • Think about how you’ll measure results and progress for your goal. How will you know if/when you’ve achieved it? Think in numbers, lengths of time, etc…
  • Phrasing your goal like a habit is a great way to ensure you can measure your goal and progress over time.
  • Your small weekly goals should be directly related to the larger goals you’re working toward in your life. How will accomplishing this thing help you move forward in your future? How will this make you a better person for yourself or your family?
  • Pick goals that allow you to fail. This isn’t the place for “critical” tasks that MUST be completed this week or you’ll be subjected to dire repercussions. For that type of planning, please reference my daily planner set. These are goals that you’re working toward, but that you’re willing to give yourself grace on if you happen to fall behind. Please don’t ever forget this next tip: Working on your goals is all about PROGRESS, not about results. Sure, seeing fabulous results moving forward regularly is a wonderful thing, but how many of us ever achieve every goal we ever set? Does that mean we should stop setting them? Definitely not! The purpose of goalsetting (and achieving) is to help give us direction on the path we want to walk to help us reach our desired destination. This process takes time, and there will certainly be a whole lot of bumps on the road along the way. But even if it’s just one step forward all week, progress is progress, and you’re further ahead than you were the week before. And THAT is achievement.

Working on your goals is all about PROGRESS, not merely the results.

Step 3: Track Your Progress Through the Week

Keep your weekly goals sheet handy during the week, either in your planner or by your bed at night. You’ll want to check off each day you accomplished your goal, and there’s a space on the bottom of each category box to do that.

It’s perfectly ok to miss some days- don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it done everyday. Remember: the idea here is to build momentum and progress. To be a little better today than we were yesterday. You probably won’t accomplish every goal everyday, but be sure to celebrate the ones you do.

Step 4: Evaluate, Review, Adjust

At the end of the week, think about your overall progress on your goals and fill out the “evaluation” box under each category you selected. What did you do well at? What can you improve on?

This is actually a weekly pattern for me. Once a week I set some time aside to do a short “weekly review” of my goals and plans- looking back to what I accomplished the week before, as well as looking ahead to what’s coming up next. Analyzing your progress on your goals is an important step of this process, and if you skip it, you’ll lack the information you need when setting your new goals.

Some helpful things to look for during your “Weekly Review” are:

  • Which goals were you most successful in? Least successful?
  • Did the progress you made this week propel you forward in your long-term goals? Are they helping you become who you want to be?
  • What patterns do you see? Maybe you’re great at accomplishment on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but Wednesdays are just too busy for you to think about anything other than your committed tasks and appointments. This could be important information as you modify your goals- maybe Wednesday becomes a “bonus day” of sorts, or a type of “wildcard” feature for you (substituting it for a different day you might miss in the week)? I’ve done that before, and it pushes me to attempt the goal if I can, but allows me to give myself grace if it just doesn’t happen.
  • Are there different categories/areas of your life you’d rather focus on in the coming week? Have your priorities shifted, even temporarily based on the circumstances in front of you this week? (This is completely normal- life priorities will often sway in response to what’s happening in your life. It’s usually temporary, and when the circumstance is addressed, life will return to “normal”.)
  • Do you want to change or alter your goal for the coming week? Think about things like how often you think you can fill the task (more or less often than last week?), or the measurement of the goal (10 pages of reading versus 100?). Changing these numbers based on last week’s progress is recommended to keep yourself both engaged and motivated. Goals that are too easy are uninspiring, and goals that are too challenging become a frustrating chore. Finding the “happy medium” between these two extremes can be difficult, but if you can, you’ll find far more positive success than leaving it at one or the other.

Concluding Thoughts

Setting weekly goals (and then tracking and evaluating them later) is an essential step in your personal progression. It’s also one of the easiest, fastest, and most encouraging steps I know of to give yourself “quick wins” and positive reinforcement. It’s not about berating yourself when you fail or giving up in frustration- it’s about seeing progress in action.

If you go into the process with a positive attitude of “I cannot lose”, you’ll see yourself gain momentum each and every day. Celebrate your successes and evaluate the days you don’t get as much done as you’d like. Track your progress and modify your goals as you go. Set aside time each week to review your progress and make the changes you need to ensure you’re on the path that will get you to where you want to be.

READY TO SET SOME WEEKLY GOALS AND START SEEING SOME REAL PROGRESS IN YOUR LIFE? DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE WEEKLY GOALS PLANNER BELOW AND LET’S GET TO WORK!

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Why We Procrastinate?

We procrastinate for different reasons. Discover why you may be putting things off and recognize when you’re procrastinating, and why. This is the first step to fixing the behaviors and making the best use of your time so that you can accomplish all the things you desire.

Procrastination.

Everyone does it, including you. Some do it more than others, but if you try to say that you’ve never procrastinated, chances are you’re lying to yourself.

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination is putting off until tomorrow the things you just as easily could finish today.  It’s postponing or needlessly delaying accomplishing something because you don’t have the desire or motivation to complete it.

Let’s be clear though- procrastination is not prioritizing more important tasks or choosing the “best” activity each day. If something is honestly more important in a moment, it’s probably the best choice.

Procrastination is putting off the things you need to finish because you don’t want to do them, or you feel unfocused or unmotivated. It’s giving into distraction and pleasure as a way to distance yourself from the unpleasant task, even for a short time.

Are You a Procrastinator?

I know I am. I make a lot of excuses for it- that I work best under pressure, or that I’m “too busy” with other things, but the truth is- typically a task probably won’t get done until about the time it’s due.

I’m trying to do better though. Through the years I’ve picked up a few tricks to help me get ahead of my list so I can be more in control of my schedule, rather than letting it control me.

One thing that helps me minimize procrastination is to recognize when it’s happening, as well as why. Instead of just jumping right into trying to “fix” the problem, this allows me to look at the situation more objectively, so I can repair the cause, rather than just the result. Removing procrastination is more than just “getting down to business.” It’s the symptom of something else. I have to discover the illness first- the reasons my brain doesn’t want to complete the task. This way, the repair is healthier, longer-lasting, and more effective.

Understanding the Consequences

I’m sure you recognize the concept of consequences. The fact that once an action is taken, something else will occur as a result.

Consequences aren’t something we can control. They just happen. Sometimes they’re imposed by the people around us, sometimes they’re just the natural effect of a choice we’ve made. Either way, once we make a decision and act on it, we enact a tier of consequences as a result of that choice.

As a teacher, I’d often share the following Stephen Covey quote with my students: “We are free to choose our actions, . . . but we are not free to choose the consequences of these actions.”

There are many types of consequences. There extrinsic (or external – outside yourself) and intrinsic (or internal – in your mind/body) consequences. Natural (unstoppable consequences that “just happen” within the natural world) and Logical (imposed by others).

Think, for a second, about a student who puts off studying for an exam or writing a paper. The deadline will still come, and they’ll often “pull an all-nighter” or miss out on social activities to get it done. These first consequences are unavoidable and cannot be influenced. But the chain doesn’t stop there – there are other, linked, consequences that follow: missed relationships, lower grade, stress and panic, & harm to health from lack of sleep.

How many times have you been late to an appointment or event because you procrastinated getting ready to leave? Has this hurt a friendship or caused you embarrassment?

Consequences may not be the same for every person, and they may even look different to yourself from one occasion to the next, but there’s no denying the fact that there’s always a consequence to procrastination. Sometimes it manifests itself immediately, sometimes not for awhile, but it always comes. Unnecessary stress, missed deadlines, forgetting commitments, or hurt relationships are just a handful of the possible things that could go wrong with procrastinating.

Why Do We Procrastinate?

So we know that there will be consequences of putting things off, but most of us still do it. And probably far more often than we’d like.

Why? Why do we put off the things that we could technically do today? Why do we ignore the consequences when they’re staring us right in the face?

Even if you’re not a chronic procrastinator (like I am – I admit it!), nearly everyone does it at some point. And there are many possible reasons for it:

  • Fear: Fear is a paralyzing emotion.  It has the power to stop us from taking action. Maybe you fear failure, or that success would be limited and unrepeatable. Perhaps you fear what people will think, or going outside your comfort zone. Or it could be that you’re afraid of being vulnerable or breaking people’s perceived notion of who you are. Whatever it is, if fear is causing you to backtrack and forget the things you dream of doing, work to fix the problem head-on. It’s only holding you back from your amazing potential.
  • Importance: When we procrastinate, it’s very often because we don’t place enough psychological value on the importance of the task, project, or goal. Sure on the surface we may tout its importance, but deep down, we’re putting higher value on other things. My mom used to tell me when I’d forget about things like birthdays or events that “if it was important enough to remember, I would.” As a kid I rejected the possibility of this being true, but I’ve since learned the wisdom in this statement, and I think it works here too. If the task was important enough to you, you’d push yourself to completing it. Even unintentionally, everytime you turn on the TV when there are still items on your MIT list, you’re telling yourself that your “entertainment” is more important than your progression.
  • Need More Information:  Starting a new project or goal often requires additional knowledge or research. Maybe you want to repair the dryer yourself instead of calling it in, or perhaps you’d like to “someday” publish a book you’ve written. You probably can’t just “dive into” these things- you’ll have to gather some information beforehand. So schedule some time to collect the information you need and get started!
  • Higher Priorities: Life is busy.  We have jobs and commitments and activities and tasks and about a hundred things to get to everyday. Commonly we put off things that don’t need to get done today, in favor of other, more important or urgent tasks. This is ok- life is about establishing priorities and making choices. Just be sure that the things you’re doing each day are the most important use of your time.
  • Uncommitted to Task: Maybe you think it’s unfair that the task is assigned to you, or that someone else should be responsible for it. Perhaps you see it as a waste of time and that you’ve got “more important” things to worry about. These are signs of not being fully committed to the task. Truth is, it still needs it get done, and if you can’t delegate it, and you’re still responsible for the outcome, you’ll need to come up with a plan. Remember when you were in school and you were assigned a “partner” activity? Yeah, I hated those too. More times than not, I’d end up carrying more than my fair share of the weight because the consequences for an incomplete assignment were important for me to avoid. So weigh it out for yourself – what happens if you keep pushing it off? Is that worth ensuring that things are “fair?” Sometimes the answer is yes, but only you can make that decision.
  • Laziness: Everyone is faced with jobs in life that they simply just don’t want to do.  They’re either unpleasant, like having to clean dirty toilets, or they’re scary, like fixing the roof or preparing a Speech. Unfortunately, procrastination can reinforce itself. Once we avoid the task we don’t want to do and replace it with something “fun”, it becomes easier and easier to repeat. But how can we overcome this laziness? First thing is to accept it. In most cases, facing the truth about our weaknesses can help us overcome these bad habits and move into action where we otherwise may have failed.  Laziness is also another word for unmotivated. Finding a way to motivate yourself is the key to moving outside of your laziness.
  • Unfocused: Do you sit down to complete something and find yourself pulled into a thousand different directions? You open up Facebook or start checking your email. You go to take out the trash or start filing your paperwork from last week. These tasks, though many of them seem “productive” and important, are pulling you away from the task you’ve committed to. As you see things that need to be done, add them to a list, but don’t jump from one thing to another like a jackrabbit, because then nothing will get done! Remove distractions and work on increasing your mental focus to ensure that once you dedicate a block of time to a task, this is the only place your mind settles.
  • Overcomplicated: This is a major weakness of mine. Naturally, I seem to have the notion that “more is better” and seem to try to create a huge production out of every task on my list- or many of them at least. Working to simplify the things in your life can increase the number of things you accomplish and the results you see, exponentially. Remember: Keep it Simple!  

I hope this has opened your eyes a little to the reality of procrastination. It’s all around us, and often we’re doing it without even realizing. Try to be on the lookout for the times you might be procrastinating and ask yourself: Why?

Download the free printable below to evaluate the possible reasons you might be procrastinating the tasks on your list. Then check back for the second article in the series where I’ll cover tips to overcome procrastination.

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We procrastinate for different reasons. Discover why you may be putting things off and recognize when you’re procrastinating, and why. This is the first step to fixing the behaviors and making the best use of your time so that you can accomplish all the things you desire.

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Why do you procrastinate? Is there something I missed from the list? Share your vices below!

Know Your Productivity Type

Knowing your productivity type can help you prioritize your work so you can achieve the greatest success each day.

Are you the type of task-driven person who cannot stand seeing unchecked boxes on your “to do” list? Or are you driven by deadlines and can’t seem to get started until a hard deadline is looming on your projects? Knowing your productivity type can help you prioritize your work so you can achieve the greatest success each day.

The Four Productivity Styles

In my study, I’ve seen three strong productivity styles that manifest when trying to get things finished. A major personality-test addict myself, I’ve found that knowing the tendencies produced by your personality can often help you understand your own strengths and weaknesses, which can, in turn, help you understand how best you work.

Below are the three Productivity styles I’ve seen, as well as some ideas on how to leverage your personality to achieve the greatest success.

One thing to note: you may find that you don’t fit into a single “type”, and that’s ok. I see a little of each within myself, but I do have a dominant style. One that I relate most to and that most of the characteristics ring true for me. If there are two or more that seem to fit you, pick the one that resonates the strongest, or use tips from both styles.

The Detailer

Detailers are the kings & queens of the to-do list. They have strong goals and know how to achieve the results they’re looking for. They’ll work tirelessly to develop a clear plan of action. They’re the tourist with the 7-page itinerary and walk with a map in their hand- if they haven’t memorized it first.

Strengths:

Detailers thrive on organization, lists and order. They are well aware of upcoming deadlines and will usually have a notebook within arm’s reach, because everything is always written down.

They’re natural “planners” and are spectacular at organizing all the small details that go into a plan. Detailers are goal-driven and always have their life priorities in mind when planning their time.

When a project needs to be planned or organized, the detailer is usually the one to figure it out. Detailers are great at figuring out how to do something, because they understand each individual and separate step.

Weaknesses:

Detailers tend to have a hard time looking at the “big picture” because they get so caught up in the small details. Sometimes perfection-oriented, they’ll tend to waste (er- spend) a lot of time ensuring everything “fits just right”.

They are not very spontaneous, and may struggle with creative thinking or working outside the box. They often have difficulty with flexibility and don’t take change well.

Detailers often prefer to work alone and may find it difficult to contribute in groups because they can struggle with making decisions without adequate time to process the details. They are critical thinkers who analyze each piece before making important decisions, and have a hard time skipping that process.

They can also be hyper-critical of their own thoughts and ideas, analyzing the validity and practicality before fully exploring the possibility.

Tips:

If you’re a detailer, if you stick to your to-do list, you’ll regularly see fantastic results. Dedicate the time necessary to writing out your tasks, goals, and priorities, and the output will be far greater than the time spent. You receive clarity in the process and this will be time well spent.

The Team Player

Team players, also very commonly spectacular leaders, are people that thrive in social situations. They’re outgoing and lively, ambitious and people-oriented. If they were a traveler, they’d much sooner ask every stranger they saw for directions and “secret locations” than read a guidebook or map.

Strengths:

Team Players love working in groups, managing people, and “persuading” others. They work best when surrounded by other people and a fair amount of noise or input.

They are commonly thoughtful and encouraging to others and excel in groups or partnerships. They often make fantastic leaders with their ability to delegate tasks and organize other people and information.

Team Players will quickly take control of a group situation and act as the team cheerleader by encouraging other team members and having a positive attitude about the project at hand.

Weaknesses:

Team Players will cringe at the idea of working alone- they need the personal interaction and thrive in a group setting.

Because of their high social awareness, Team Players can easily get distracted by conversations and can struggle to stay focused on individual tasks.

When not surrounded by people, Team Players will very often find themselves relying on social media for their personal interaction. In small doses this is fine, but if left unchecked, it can very often become a large distraction.

Tips

Listening to a good music playlist can help a Team Player stay focused. It provides the vocal input that they vividly need, while not providing an avenue for conversation or response. It can keep the Team Player engaged in the task in front of them instead of pulling them into all the different directions they’d so love to go.

Social interaction can energize a Team Player. They’ll draw inspiration and motivation from meeting with and talking to others. If you are a Team Player, consider spending some of your working time in a public place such as Starbucks or a Local Park in order to get the most done during the day.

Another great tactic to see positive results is to get others involved. Grab a team (kids, spouse, friends, church group) and as much as you can, delegate every task you don’t need to do yourself. Working alongside others turns the most menial task into a group activity, which is incredibly empowering for a Team Player.

The Visionary

The visionary is a creative soul. They’re motivated by creating, developing their ideas and finding new ways to approach a situation. They are spontaneous and impulsive. When traveling, a visionary will set off for a with no set plan and the attitude of “I’ll figure it out when I’ll get there.”

Strengths & Weaknesses:

A visionary will often be juggling multiple projects at any given time. They will commonly have a hard time keeping interest on only one task at a time, preferring to let their creative mind jump between several things to keep a fresh look on each project.

Visualizers are creative thinkers who welcome change. They are flexible and have no problem adjusting when problems arise.

Visualizers are great at seeing the big picture, and tend to focus on the end result as opposed to the smaller tasks which lead to that end result. If they can work collaboratively with a Detailer, these two can be an unstoppable team, but doing so can prove challenging as they have very different approaches to organizing and task management.

Their workspace (and mind) are seen as cluttered and unorganized, and to someone like a Detailer this can be seen as a major weakness. To the Visionary, it’s a sign of a creative space- a place where “the magic happens”, so to speak. They know what is in each of their “piles” on their desk, and can still find anything they need.

While working with others, Visionaries can let their imaginations run away with them when trying to plan out a project. They’ll have many ideas that the Team Player and Detailers can help formulating into a plan.

Weaknesses:

Though visionaries have a great amount of energy and their creative minds are constantly coming up with new ideas, their fluid nature tends to leave them with a difficulty completing the tasks and projects they start.  

Tips

For Visionaries working alone, batching tasks (doing all repeated tasks at the same time each week) can help balance between keeping a fresh eye and true productivity. Each occurrence will be different enough to still be interesting to the Visionary, but also similar and help establish an efficient workflow.

Next Steps:

The better you understand your productivity type, the more tools you can utilize to maximize your potential and find success in your goals and life desires.

Once you figure out how – and when – you work best, you will be an unstoppable force. You’ll know exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to approach it. You’ll fly through your task list and feel accomplished and empowered!

So what’s your Productivity Style? Download the printable below to take the assessment, then comment below: Is it accurate? Does it give you any ideas on how to leverage your style to get the most done?

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Why Mindfulness is NOT (Just) Meditation

Mindfulness is seeing yourself in the moment for who you are and tracking areas you’d like to improve. It’s focusing on the present and letting go of the things that don’t serve you. Mindfulness allows us to get more done, accomplish more goals, and live a more healthy life.

The Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at Maharishi University has reported that “Leading medical experts estimate that 90% of disease is caused or complicated by stress.

That is an astounding number. Stress is an epidemic in our country. In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 77% of respondents reported “regularly experiencing physical symptoms caused by stress” and 73% “psychological symptoms.”

Are you one of the three-fourths that are plagued with regular stress, overwhelm, exhaustion, burnout or extreme frustration?

I am. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle that can never be won, but I promise- you do have tools at your disposal. One of my favorites is: Mindfulness.

Now before you start thinking of yoga poses and breathing techniques, let me stop you. Those things CAN be a PART of mindfulness, but it’s not the entire concept. Mindful living is so much more than that!

WHAT IS MINDFULNESS ANYWAY?

I love the definition given at mindful.org: “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Does that definition say anything about yoga or meditation? It certainly doesn’t!

Mindfulness is an ability that everyone already possesses. It’s a state of mind. It’s something you can do anywhere, anytime. You can develop and evaluate your mindfulness in different ways (which is what I like to teach about here at V&B), but it’s not a “skill” that only some possess.

Put most simply, mindFULness is really just the opposite of mindLESSness. Having a mind FULL of things that will make you a better person and lead you to a more satisfying life, instead of allowing yourself to make “mindLESS” choices on a whim.

I like to think of it as awareness. Being aware of the things around you so you can act accordingly. Paying attention to the moment at hand. Being intentional with your time, your actions and your thoughts.

It’s about making specific choices based on positive life goals, instead of letting life control your path.

It’s about constantly working toward those goals, while still being kind to your spirit and giving yourself lots of grace. It’s about loving yourself for who you are, but knowing your great potential and pushing yourself to be better. It’s about recognizing the positives you have to offer, but knowing you can be So Much More!

Focus on the Present

We have a tendency to focus on things that occurred in the past and anticipating too strongly the things that might happen. Though joyful memories and excitement for what is to come can be great things, allowing them to take the majority of our mindspace is detrimental to our progress.

Instead, it is far more healthy to focus on the things of the present. Mindfulness is paying attention to what’s happening right now: your actions, your thoughts, your environment. It’s not letting your mind get carried away with thoughts of the past or worries from the present. It’s letting go of anything that doesn’t serve your current goals and refocusing your mind if you get off track. It keeps you grounded in the here and now.

Mindfulness is Internal

Mindfulness focuses on the inner self, rather than the outer.

Being mindful allows us to see into our spirits- to the place that nobody else gets to see. It helps us to dig deep into our soul and pull out the aspects of ourselves that really define us. It’s letting go of how the world sees you, and allowing you to see yourself for who you really are. Your true self.

Being mindful has been huge in my development of self-confidence and self-esteem. It helps me to see that it doesn’t matter what people think if I know the real truth.

Mindfulness is freeing. It’s letting go of what doesn’t serve you and allowing yourself to focus on what does.

Benefits of Being Mindfulness

Mindfulness is not just a “fad” or “new-age trend.”

Incorporating mindfulness into your life has many tangible health benefits, including:

  • Decreased stress and increased capacity to work through life’s challenges
  • Increased clarity, attention, and brain function
  • Lowered anxiety and depression
  • Improved general well-being

Mindful.org explains: “When we’re mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind, and increase our attention to other’s well-being.”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the struggles and trials of our everyday lives and miss the wonderfully good things that happen around us. Constant pessimism is like poison to our spirits, but stopping to see the positives can provide us with much needed positive energy, which can be incredibly uplifting.

The beauty of true mindfulness is in the huge impact it brings to our spirits. Being fully aware of your mind and your surroundings can help you to see the good within life’s challenges.

It doesn’t erase the difficulties of life; it simply allows us to work through them calmly and realistically, instead of with fear and negativity. It turns them into opportunities for growth and progression, rather than tragedies and misfortunes.

This is quite a different view of mindfulness than merely relying on meditation and yoga, am I right?

Mindfulness is a Choice

“But how can I just ignore all the bad things in my life?”

You can’t. And doing so wouldn’t be healthy anyway. Those negatives influence who you are. They are a part of your past, but they don’t have to define you.

You get to decide what you focus on. You get to choose what you let matter. It’s your choice where you put your energies.

How do I Practice Mindfulness?

Let me be clear: “being mindful” and “practicing mindfulness” aren’t entirely the same.

While, as stated above, you can be mindful anytime, anywhere, “practicing” mindfulness is an intentional action that you must set aside time for.

It can look different for everyone, but for me, I find that spending time each day (usually at night) physically tracking my mindset is very beneficial. This is the procedure I facilitate at Vibrance & Bliss.

In a specific place in my planner I track things like:

  • my moods
  • gratitude
  • water intake (and other health concerns)
  • goals & progress: daily, weekly etc…
  • intentional routines & schedule
  • choosing the right tasks
  • small (or large!) daily wins, improvements, achievements & successes
  • memories
  • positive choices
  • future goals & improvements
  • daily evaluation

It Can Be A Challenge

So I think at this point we agree that being mindful has its benefits, and we have a basic outline of what it entails and how to put it into practice. But does that mean it’s easy?

Hardly!

Living mindfully can be a very difficult thing to do.

Yes, it is relatively simple in theory, but living mindfully requires you to address some things in your life that may be uncomfortable or upsetting.

Though it’s easier to ignore the challenges we face, it is much healthier to deal with and work through them. That’s where mindfulness can help. It takes you out of the negative headspace and helps you see what positives you can draw from the experience.

How do I stay motivated?

So how do you keep on track if you’re feeling the pressure and challenge of mindfully evaluating your day each night?

Just like any new habit or routine, it will take practice and consistency. Do it every night if possible. If you miss a day, no big deal. Just pick up again and keep going.

But always, ALWAYS be kind to yourself. That’s really the most important part. I like to think of it as “giving myself grace.” Don’t beat yourself up over a missed day or two. You’ll zap away all your motivation to keep trying.

Instead, cut yourself some slack. Don’t give up. Realize that perfection will not ever be possible.

Try changing your routine. Perhaps see if a mindfulness app can help your motivation levels. Whatever you can do to improve your consistency, the better you’ll be. If you can see you’re making progress, you’re more likely to stick to your budding routine.

How Positivity Influences Productivity

So why does all this matter? How does being “mindful” help me to get more done?

Have you ever sat down to complete a task and find yourself flooded by memories of a past negative experience? Or maybe you start to worry about an upcoming deadline you’re not sure you’ll hit?

If you’re anything like me, these thoughts probably continue running through your mind and keep you from completing the task, and twenty minutes later you’re feeling frustrated and defeated and your task is at the exact same place you left it.

Sound familiar? Trust me, I’ve been there.

The human mind loves to wander. We are easily distracted, and have a habit of allowing our minds to run over the place. This is mindlessness. You may be thinking of something, but it is certainly not what is going to further your present goals.

This is where mindfulness really shines! Constant and intentional consideration of your desired goals helps keep you on track as your mind naturally wanders.

Mindfulness IS productivity! It is the driving force that helps you get things done!

It allows you to step away from the negative thoughts that destroy your motivation and focus, and into a peaceful place where you feel positive and energized.

We are so focused on accomplishing our goals and tending to our to-dos, taking the time to contemplate life’s intangibles doesn’t always seem practical. But recognizing the boon to productivity that mindfulness provides tells us it’s well worth the “sacrifice.”

Quick Review

What Mindfulness IS:

  • Staying in the moment
  • Recognizing yourself for who you are, but not being content to staying there
  • Addressing the negatives but choosing to focus on the positives
  • Tracking areas of desired improvement

What it’s NOT:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Yoga poses
  • Ignoring what’s going on around us
  • Obsessing about the past or worrying about the future

HOW DO I DO IT?

Daily tracking the aspects of your life you’d like to see more positive results in: your gratitude, moods, health, energy, goals, routines or

HOW IS MINDFULNESS DIFFERENT FROM MEDITATION?

Whereas meditation is something you DO, mindfulness is a state of mind- an awareness that your life is made up of more than the events in your life. Being mindful is a constant choice, and though meditation can be a great avenue to improve your mental health, it does not define mindfulness.

Why does all this matter? What’s the point?

Mindfulness:

  • Increases your focus
  • Improves motivation
  • Stimulates work ethic

Simply put, mindfulness allows us to get more done, accomplish more goals, and live a more healthy life. And who doesn’t want that?    

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  3. Join the Discussion: What does mindfulness mean to you? Leave a comment below!

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Mindfulness is seeing yourself in the moment for who you are and tracking areas you’d like to improve. It’s focusing on the present and letting go of the things that don’t serve you. Mindfulness allows us to get more done, accomplish more goals, and live a more healthy life.

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What are Your *Most Important* Tasks

When you simply don't have time for everything on your list, decide which tasks hold the most value, and focus on just a few each day.

Have you ever had a day where you worked yourself frazzled only to discover that by the end of the day you really didn’t accomplish much at all, and the things you should have done are still sitting there, staring you in the face?

Buring Ourselves in Busy

Getting things done during the day seems to be a constant struggle for most people I know. “I’m so busy!” or “There aren’t enough hours in the day!” are phrases that I hear so very often. And I get it! I say them myself definitely more often than I should.

So why do we find ourselves “busy” so often? And what does that really mean? How much of what you’re doing every day actually propels you forward toward your goals? Because really, it’s not about how much you’re getting done… it’s about what you’re getting done, and if you’re accomplishing those things that are really going to help you get where you want to be.

If you’re measuring your success based solely on the number of things you accomplish every day without thinking about the actual progress you’re making toward your goals, you might want to take a couple steps back, because you’re overworking yourself for no reason.

Hopefully you understand the valuable nature of time. It’s a limited and oh-so-precious commodity, one that must be safeguarded and respected. And so often, we waste it away like it’s nothing.

We will always hаvе things that will need to get dоnе, but the trick to staying productive is is figuring out what the right things are, and making sure we’re getting the biggest bang for our buck. Establishing your “Top 3” every day and focusing on these tasks first can help boost your productivity and help you get the most out of your limited time.

If you’re tired of wasting it away and want to spend your time the most effective way possible, this is probably the best way I’ve found to help me feel like at the end of the day, I’ve been productive and gotten not just a bunch of things accomplished, but the right things. Sound good? Let’s go!

 

Discovering your MIT

Hеrе are the five ѕіmрlе ѕtерѕ to hеlр уоu establish your “Top 3” and tо gеt thе rіght things done:

1. Brain Dump

Get a piece of paper and write down all the things you think you need to do. If you’ve never done a brain dump, you can find more information about this process here. The idea here is that you’re going to get everything out of your head so you can process it all later on.

2. Establish your Goals & Priorities

If you haven’t done this in awhile, make sure you spend some time thinking about and writing down what you want to achieve in life, as well as what you value most. In order for you to make the best use of your time, you need to know what’s important to you and the direction you most want to head in.

3. Organize

Here you’re going to begin organizing your tasks based on importance, keeping in mind your goals & priorities. Remember: if it doesn’t align with the direction you’re trying to head in, it can possibly be deferred or dumped.

When you simply don't have time for everything on your list, decide which tasks hold the most value, and focus on just a few each day.

4. Schedule

After you’ve narrowed down your list based on what you really need to do, now you can decide the order in which you need to do them. Do any of your tasks have a deadline? Which are the most “urgent” tasks, and which are just there for “someday?”

5. Evaluate

Fight the urge to be tempted away from this important step. Albert Einstein stated that the definition of Insanity is “doing something over and over again and expecting different results.” This is where Evaluation comes in.

Periodically (I like to do this informally every evening or morning)  you need to take a step back and make sure that you’re on the right track. If you’re still not feeling productive at the end of the day, or you’re still feeling guilt over not completing everything on your list, are you really completing your Most Important Tasks? Are there other things that could be a better use of your time, even though they may not be as “fun” or externally rewarding? Or perhaps you need a mindset shift in understanding that you really can’t get every single thing done, but that it doesn’t make you a failure.

Whatever it is that you need to change or do differently at this point, you have to do a periodic evaluation to discover what needs to change and take steps to make it different.

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NEXT STEPS:

I know that was a lot to digest in such a short time, but here’s the good news: if you like this idea of establishing and focusing on your 3 MITs, I go into it in further detail in my FREE course “Transform the Overwhelm: 7 Days to Peaceful Productivity”, which you can sign up for now. Every day for a week you’ll receive detailed instructions, exercises, and support from me as you navigate your own list and work to transform those feelings of overwhelm into true productivity.

Stephen Covey’s 2×2 Time Management Matrix

Overwhelmed? Not sure what needs to get done first? Use a TM Matrix will help you evaluate your tasks based on priorities so you can choose the best thing.

It’s easy to get bogged down with your growing task list when it seems you’re adding more than you’re accomplishing. As much as it’s difficult for me to admit, I continually have to remind myself that I simply cannot do everything every day. Sometimes, I just have to prioritize the most important tasks and know I’ve done my best. But how do we know which tasks are the most important? Productivity guru Stephen Covey, in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” explained a system to organize your tasks based on two criteria: urgency and importance. Working together, these two things create a grid where you can judge all incoming tasks to determine your next best step. It’s called the “Time Management Matrix”. It works like this: The top two sections are categorized in urgency, the bottom two in importance. Overwhelmed? Not sure what needs to get done first? Use a TM Matrix will help you evaluate your tasks based on priorities so you can choose the best thing.

URGENCY & IMPORTANCE

When you want to evaluate your tasks, you need to consider each of these for each task.   Urgency: Does the task have a deadline, or is it time sensitive? Something like “buy a wedding gift for Sarah” needs to be done by next Saturday, so you can bring it with you when you attend. But “clean out my closet”, though it may be very needed, doesn’t have to be done by a specific time. Importance: Does it really matter if you get this thing done or not? Or is it just a “want to” kind of task? In the above examples, let’s say that you’re not super close to Sarah (she’s a work colleague’s daughter) and if you don’t bring a gift, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. You still want to do it, but the importance factor has then gone down. And yet, “clean out my closet”, though not deadline driven, is still important because half of the clothes you own don’t fit anymore or are out of season- you need to purge some and store others away. This task has a higher importance level, but lacks urgency.

THE QUADRANTS

After determining the urgency & importance of each of your items, you combine your results to place each task in one of the four quadrants. Quadrant 1: Urgent & Important. These are tasks that are top priority. They include tasks that are high in both urgency & importance. Let’s say your son’s field trip permission slip is due on Friday- if you don’t get it in, he can’t go. Important, right? And the deadline is in 3 days- urgent? Definitely! This tells you that you need to do this task ASAP. Quadrant 2: Not Urgent & Important. These tasks are second priority. (See the pattern?) Cleaning out your closet goes here. Or spending time with family- important because it aligns with your life priorities and goals, but doesn’t need to be done by a specific time. Worst case scenario- if your day is filled up with all #1s, these #2s can usually be postponed to a later time. Overwhelmed? Not sure what needs to get done first? Use a TM Matrix will help you evaluate your tasks based on priorities so you can choose the best thing. Quadrant 3: Urgent & Not Important. Third in priority- these tasks only get completed after you’ve completed, or scheduled, quadrants 1 & 2. Because they’re not important, you have to decide if the time they’ll take to complete are worth the benefits of completing the task. (In financial terms, this is called “return on investment.” I like thinking of my tasks like that.) Often you’ll find you can eliminate some of these items, or delegate them to others. Quadrant 4: Not Urgent & Not Important: These tasks are often the ones we put there because we want to. Things like watching our favorite show on Netflix, or surfing Facebook. They’re things that we need to plan a little time for (in the interest of self-care & unwinding), but need to keep under control. Quadrant 4 is, you guessed it, lowest priority.

WHY THIS IS HELPFUL

For me, it’s really nice to visually see my tasks organized by priority, especially when I start to feel overwhelmed with so many of them. Often I find tasks that I think are important, but by forcing myself to place each task in a quadrant, I realize I can cut many of them out, simplifying my day. I have a huge problem with over-planning my time, but using this method of priority really helps me get a handle on what I really do have time to accomplish. I also really like how this forces me to triage my tasks before I add them to my list- I have to literally sit and evaluate each task before I write it down… to ensure I am placing it in the proper quadrant… no more doing #3s before all else! Note: I do combine this with a good “Brain Dump” to ensure all my thoughts are written down beforehand- that way I don’t forget anything while I’m prioritizing.

HOW TO PLAN YOUR TIME

Knowing that quadrant 1 items are top priority, you can probably guess that they really should be completed or planned first. That’s a no brainer. But do the rest fall exactly in line? (#2s, #3s and then #4s?) Well, not exactly. It’s important to create balance in your life, which you can do well, using this system. When planning your time, after you’ve planned all urgent & important matters, you want to sprinkle in a mixture of both 2s & 3s. After deciding to plan or eliminate the 3s, if you are going to do them, since they have deadlines, get them on the list. Since they’re lower priority, if they don’t end up happening exactly the way you want, you can feel guiltless about missing them. But if you’re anything like me, they definitely won’t happen if they’re not even on the list (and obviously before the deadline.)   So, to illustrate, I’m going to put the permission slip on my calendar first, since it’s due in 3 days and has high importance. Next, I’m going to plan to clean my closet on Saturday morning, since it I feel strongly it’s important for me right now. I’m going to plan on picking up Sarah’s wedding gift on Thursday evening after work (since I get off early that night), but if something happens, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m also going to write in to watch a couple episodes of my favorite show this week- one on Wednesday night and one Sunday afternoon.   Don’t underestimate the importance of carving out some time for those 4s- guilty pleasures that you can use as rewards for a productive day, or as a tool to help you unwind from the stressful ones. Some call these “distractions” and urge you to avoid them- I know it’s important to let yourself indulge a little. Just be careful… only you know how much time is left in your schedule. Don’t waste it. I hope this has helped you see just how beneficial this can be to help you organize your growing task list… be sure to be honest with yourself when judging urgency and importance. If it helps you meet or progress you in your life goals, it’s probably important. And is each task actually as urgent as it seems? Try to eliminate as many things as possible… simplifying your list can help you exponentially in the long run.

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Looking for a simpler version of this process? There’s an easy one included in my FREE course “Transform the Overwhelm: 7 Days to Peaceful Productivity”which you can sign up for now. Every day for a week you’ll receive detailed instructions, exercises, and support from me as you navigate your own list and work to transform those feelings of overwhelm into true productivity.