Last month I shared a poem by A.A. Milne about a sailor who was stranded on an island. The sailor was faced with a long list of tasks, which all seemed vital to his survival, yet he did nothing because he couldn’t decide what to do first. This sailor had trouble prioritizing. By no means is this a problem unique to sailors but let’s have some fun with this story.
Here’s what the sailor says he needs to accomplish:
1. Make fish hooks = food
2. Make a sun hat = protection from the elements
3. Find a spring = water
4. Find goats = companionship (not to eat)
5. Make needles for sail = escape the island
6. Make a hut = safety
I would do these six tasks in the following order: 3, 1, 6, 2, 5, 4. Here’s why:
If he doesn’t have water or food he’ll die so 1 & 3 take top priority.
We all know food and shelter are basic needs so once he has food he should protect himself from predators and the elements by doing 6 & 2.
Now that he can sustain himself on the island he can concentrate on getting off the island by working on a sail, #5.
Finding a goat for companionship isn’t necessary for his survival so it’s the last priority.
After taking a closer look at the sailor’s list, the priorities became clear. In reality most task are not equally important. There is usually a reason why one task is more important than the next. Most often there are consequences if a task isn’t done or it may simply be that one task, left undone, causes you more anxiety than another. That alone is reason to get it off your plate – one less thing to cause you stress.
Here is a step-by-step guide to doing what is most important first:
1. Make a List – When you’re faced with multiple tasks that must get done, my first suggestion is to write it down, whether on paper or on an app. Getting it out of your head makes it seem less overwhelming. It also takes away the fear that you’ll forget something.
2. Assign Priorities – After creating the list label each project A- first priority, B – second priority, or C – third priority. The amount of stress it’s causing you should be a factor in assigning the priority. You can also categorize the task by the time it will take to get it done (even if it’s an estimate) and do the tasks that are top priority that you have time to complete today.
3. Identify the Roadblocks – Determine what’s stopping you from accomplishing the important projects. Do you not want to do the work because it’s boring? Are you afraid you’ll make a mistake? Do you lack confidence in your ability to learn something new? Once you’re aware of the road block use your resources to get around them.
4. Gather your Resources – These resources may be internal – you’ve tackled much more difficult tasks so you know you’re capable of doing this. The resources may be external – ask for help, hire a professional to do the job, maybe Naturally Organized can help, stop spending time on Facebook and spend that time working on the project.
5. Focus on the Benefits. What will it feel like to complete the job?
When do you take time to do the fun stuff? I’ll often make a deal with myself to work on my list until 3 pm then I’ll stop and do something fun. This way I’m chipping away at my list while still having some time to enjoy myself.
I can help you put what you have just learned into practice. Whether we tackle the projects in-person or we coach you through the road blocks we’ll get things done. Call me, 603-821-0736
I’d be happy to talk to you about it.