Ask 100 people to name their top priorities and the same items would appear at the top of most lists. Family, health, food and shelter, friends, work, pets – most of us would compose lists that look pretty similar. Say the word “priorities” and everyone’s mind goes to the same places.

In some ways, we’re all experts at prioritizing.

From the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep, we put tasks in order. First drink your coffee, then brush your teeth. First bring the car to a stop, then check your phone. People who work in ERs or in other life-or-death settings have to be really good at making quick decisions about who to help first. Hopefully, in a crisis you’d also be able to make split-second judgment calls.

And yet, when it comes to more mundane tasks, prioritizing can be really hard. This is one of the things I often hear from clients who need help with time management. They know what they need to do… they’re just not sure what they need to do first, what they need to do second, and what they don’t need to do at all.

It’s that last one that trips up a lot of busy professionals, I know. “It all needs to get done! I can’t just ignore [X]!” I get it! When you’re overwhelmed by work and life tasks, like so many people are, everything starts to seem equally important. You have to fill out that form, pay that bill, sign that permission slip, check on the status of that report.

Nothing seems expendable.

That all-or-nothing mentality only contributes to overwhelm because clearing your to-do list is sometimes impossible! You can roll your unfinished tasks over to the next day, but then you’ll be scrambling to get them done while also attending to the work of the day. It’s a vicious cycle.

Learning how to prioritize ends that cycle – or at least, gives you some room to breathe. And just how do you do that? The process starts by getting really clear about what your peak priorities are. Once you’ve done that, figuring out what to do next becomes much easier.

This stuff sounds simple, but it’s a real challenge to retrain your brain and build new habits around productivity. Because I know a lot of people are looking for more help with time management, I want to make sure you know about my upcoming Jump Start Your Productivity teleseminar.

During this intensive five-week program, I’ll be teaching:

  • weekly teleclasses
  • answering questions during live Q&A sessions
  • providing supplemental materials and…
  • helping participants create routines and strategies that work for their lives.

I’m going to be teaching a module all about prioritizing, so if figuring out what to do next is a challenge for you, I hope you’ll register! Find out more about the teleseminar here:

In the meantime, I hope you’ll spend some time clarifying what your top priorities are. And if one of them is “getting help with time management,” I’m always here to offer just that.

As always, feel free to reach out with questions. In the meantime, I hope you’ll find some time for a break today!


Sarah Reiff-Hekking