Productivity 101: Picking Your Priorities and Sticking to Them

As we head into the fourth quarter of the year, many of the goals and resolutions that we made in January have fallen by the wayside and it seems like there are some things that we’ll never get round to checking off the to-do list. How is it possible to achieve everything we desire when we only have 24 hours in a day? Just remember that the most successful people in the world have the same 24 hours as you – the difference is that they are clear about their priorities.

Why is it so hard to stay focused on one thing?

The key problem is that our brains absolutely love routine and it takes a lot of commitment and repetition to break free of the old neural pathways that are so well worn, and to replace them with
new habits.

Another issue is that many of us are not really motivated by the goals we say we want to achieve. This may be because, the goal is actually something that society deems as important, so we think it should be important to us… but in our hearts it’s actually not.

A great example of this is achieving a 6-pack. We get sold the dream by the covers of glossy magazines and picture-perfect Instagram feeds, and while most of us want to feel fit and healthy, how many of us are willing to devote the time and dedication to achieving wash-board abs? Will the time we invest in achieving this goal pay substantial dividends in our lives? Is it really a priority?

Focus written on the back of a hand
Does it matter if we never get the 6-pack?

The most damaging effect of repeatedly promising ourselves that we will achieve something and then failing to do so, is that the more we lie to ourselves, the more difficult we’ll find it to commit to other goals in the future. And, the easier it’ll be to find excuses not to do the things we need to do consistently to achieve our goals.

How do we know what really matters to us?

Now, with all that being said… how do we go about identifying what truly matters to us and what will make the biggest impact on our lives?

  1. Start simple. Create a list of all the things that you have ever wanted to do – yes this could be pretty long.
  2. Go through each item and write a number from 1-5 next to it, noting how much that particular item will change your life. 1 is not very much and 5 is a game-changer.
  3. Make a new list with all of the number 5’s and write a quick sentence for each saying why it will be so impactful.
  4. After reflecting on each goal, select your top 3. Try and balance them out to choose 1 wellbeing goal, 1 financial goal and 1 business goal.
  5. These goals are your 3 priorities
Blue neon sign with but first coffee text
How to make sure you stick to your priorities, no matter what…
  1. Break each goal into specific steps:
    Eg: Using the gym example – Your first step may be to seek out more people who have
    already achieved six-packs so that you can learn from their successes.
  2. Mark a certain amount of time for each task:
    Give yourself more time than you think – but not too much time that you lose momentum.
    On the other hand, if you’re having to allot too much time for specific task, consider
    breaking it into smaller steps so that you can still regularly check things off your to-do list
    for the valuable endorphins rush and sense of accomplishment.
  3. Tackle the biggest tasks first:
    These are usually the ones that you shy away from and that stop you getting started in the first place. Once you get past these, the rest will be smooth sailing.
  4. Review your plan frequently and stick to it:
    Through knowledge and experience, your plan is naturally going to evolve – but make sure you keep the steps clear, simple and achievable so that it’s easier to stick to.
  5. Say no to anything that is not on your plan:
    At the start of this process, you wrote down everything that you wanted to achieve in your life and concluded that the 3 things that you chose were your priority. So, if something is not on your list, it is not important to you right now. Say no or mark it for a later date.
  6. Track your progress:
    How can you know if you’re succeeding or not, if you have nothing to compare your progress with? Create a simple score sheet that is quick to fill out and update it on a daily basis. Do a full, but quick review at the end of each week. The less maintenance your process is, the more likely you are to stick to it.
  7. Tell someone so you stay accountable:
    Share your plan with someone that you trust and let them know exactly what you need from them so that they can support you in the right way. They don’t necessarily have to be an expert in the specific subject area, they just need to be invested in your success.
  8. Be realistic about the obstacles you are likely to encounter and make contingency plans for them:
    We are all going to make mistakes when we attempt anything new – it’s part of the process and how we learn. Just like a kid learning to walk for the first time, we don’t give up the very first time we fall down – we get up again and again with the support of friends and the knowledge that we will succeed. So, prepare for the inevitable.
  9. Take time to recognise your accomplishments and feel the endorphins:
    Too often when we’re incredibly focused and driven, we begin to develop blinders that minimise our success. We start to miss the small wins and this can lead to burn-out. Slow down and enjoy the journey. Just like that kid learning to walk, make room for lots of praise for even the smallest things – your plan and support network will be a great reality check for this.
  10. Look for resources that will help you:
    You are not alone in your journey. Go and find the people who can help you – they will be invaluable to your success and will quite possible take you to a destination that you didn’t even know existed.

Where better than a co-working space to start your journey? CoWork Me is the perfect place to seek out that reliable person who will keep you accountable, and we have an accountability coach in the space (Darren Finkelstein) that can do just that. If you’re unsure of who to ask, don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for – tell us and we’ll connect you!

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