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Set priorities: How to work effectively and goal-oriented

Reading time 8 minutes
Set priorities: How to work effectively and goal-oriented

"You have to prioritize" - We've all heard this phrase at least once in our lives, haven't we? But why do you "have" to do that? What exactly does setting priorities mean and how does it help you?

Why do some people find it so difficult to prioritise tasks? And what helps to finally change something about it? All these and many other interesting questions we answer in the following and help you to finally set priorities in life.

What does setting priorities mean?

Prioritizing means that you put all your tasks in a hierarchical order. You sort them primarily according to urgency and usefulness. This helps you to use your resources and your energy as sensibly as possible.

You first work on the things that are particularly important. Then you work your way forward until your resources for the day are exhausted. This way, the most important task gets the most attention.

Changing priorities

You and your Develop personality is constantly evolving. As a result, your priorities are likely to shift over time. What seems particularly important to you today may take a back seat next year. Priorities therefore also reflect in a certain way your life goals, your views and values.

For example, it can be observed time and again that when we are young, it is primarily our career that is at the top of our list of priorities. The older we get, the more value we place on love and our health. Career and money often move further into the background. This is even confirmed by numerous studies, among others by Psychologist Janina Larissa Bühler from the University of Basel.

Why is prioritizing so important?

If you can set priorities, you hold an important key to success. After all, no one has ever made it very far if they've been constantly bogged down by small, useless and completely irrelevant tasks, right? If you don't organize your to-do list sensibly, you run the risk of getting bogged down again and again and wasting valuable time and energy. After all, both are limited and you should use them wisely.

At the same time it reduces stress. With the targeted use of your resources, which is possible thanks to prioritization, you check off all the tasks that take up a lot of time and energy first. This way you have already mastered the biggest hurdles of the day and can always proceed in a more relaxed manner.

relieve stress

Why is it so hard for us to prioritize sometimes?

There are an unbelievable number of tasks on your to-do list and today you also have countless appointments. It's easy to get bogged down and, in retrospect, wish you'd tackled everything in a different order. Well, do you recognize yourself here? Don't worry, you're not alone. More people feel this way than you might think.

Do you tend to make decisions spontaneously based on your gut? Then you may lack the necessary foresight. You only look at the current situation and do not pay attention to what is the wiser choice in the long run. But maybe you can't judge that sufficiently because you don't know what is really important to you.

Do you let yourself be easily influenced by others and give away decisions whenever possible? Of course, the one who makes the choice also takes responsibility for the consequences, and you are only too happy to give that away, aren't you? But what you're also relinquishing is control of your life. Only when you are the person who decides on priorities do you steer your future in the direction you want it to go. Prioritizing means acting in a self-determined way.

You benefit from these advantages when setting priorities

You have already read about some of the advantages of setting priorities. We summarize them for you once again.

1. you tame the chaos in your everyday life and keep things in order.

2. you give yourself a clear line to which you always orient yourself and which gives you security.

3. you focus on what is really important and don't get bogged down with small, trivial tasks.

4. you use your resources (time, concentration, energy) in a targeted manner.

5. despite the urge to get as much done as possible at the same time, you focus on one thing at a time and do it diligently.

6. you work goal-oriented.

7. you save yourself from unnecessary detours.

8. you reduce your stress level, because you do the most urgent things first and thus free yourself from the pressure that weighs on you.

9. you work more effectively and thus create free space for yourself, which you can use for other things that make you happy.

Ten. You improve your Work-life balance.

set priorities

With these 8 tips, you'll successfully prioritize and stick to your priorities in the future

Where has the time gone again and why haven't I done all the important tasks yet? Do you ask yourself this question more often than you would like? Then these 8 tips for setting priorities are just what you need!

1. get to know yourself better

Where are your strengths, where are your weaknesses? For which tasks do you therefore need particularly much or rather less time? When can you concentrate particularly well and what is important to you personally in order to achieve your goals?

All these questions are important when setting priorities. But you can only answer them if you know yourself well. So take time for self-reflection on a regular basis.

2. put the unpleasant tasks on the top of the list

Do you love to put off things you don't like to do? Unfortunately, this increases your stress level. Often it is exactly these tasks that cost you a lot of time and concentration. If you wait until the last minute, both are scarce and this stresses you out even more.

It is questionable whether good results will come out of it. You know this yourself and the stress increases even more. You can save yourself all this by making the completion of unpleasant tasks a priority. This way, you will have mastered the biggest hurdle early and often faster, and you can devote yourself to more pleasant tasks without having a guilty conscience.

3. pay attention to your time management

Unfortunately, the most elaborate list of priorities won't do you much good if you completely lose track of time. So it's best to make a note of your time goals. But stay realistic and don't put yourself under unnecessary pressure with utopian ideas.

4. write yourself a list for tomorrow in the evening

You already know today what you have to do tomorrow? Then write down the three most important tasks of the day in the evening. So you have them directly in the morning in front of your eyes and prepare yourself mentally for it. You collect first important thoughts for it and can check them off so perhaps even faster than usual. Besides, it feels incredibly good when you can check off three big tasks of the day at once, doesn't it?

5. don't let others steal valuable time from you

Helpfulness is a great trait and incredibly important in a team. Someone asks you to take a call for them or help them with a tricky task? Of course you can do that, but don't forget your own to-dos. If you're in danger of not being able to keep up, say "no" sometimes.

6. don't let anyone tell you what to do

Priorities can be objective but also subjective. For example, deadlines are objective, but what you personally would like to get done quickly is subjective. Don't let others tell you what to do.

You may find that one task takes more concentration than others, so you want to get it done first thing in the morning. Your colleagues might see it differently and would rather push it to the afternoon. But you are the person who has to do it, so your subjective feeling is also what counts.

7. do not put the blame on others

Today you barely got anything done and blame rush hour traffic for why you were late to work? Or the bad weather that made you so tired today? That's not going to get you anywhere. You alone are responsible for your actions. Keep reminding yourself of that.

8. don't keep getting hung up on little things

Picture this. You fill a jar with small grains of sand and then try to squeeze larger rocks into it. That doesn't work, right? Because you don't have any more room. But if you put the big rocks in first, you still have room for the grains of sand.

It's the same with your to-dos. If you do the big ones first, you often have time for smaller tasks afterwards. But if you get bogged down with trivial things right from the start, you often won't manage the important tasks.

prioritization methods

Set priorities: These methods make it work

Have you ever heard of the Covey Matrix? It consists of four fields and helps you to categorize exactly according to importance and urgency. In the first field you write what is important and urgent at the same time, in the second field what is important but not urgent. In the third box you write what is not important but still urgent and in the last box you write what is unimportant and also not urgent. This helps you immensely to find out which tasks you should do first and which have a little more time.

You can also assess what should be at the top of the list without the matrix? Then simply write a bullet journal. This is basically a very uncomplicated to-do list that you have sorted by priority and work through bit by bit.

And we would like to introduce you to a third, very simple method: the ALPEN method. "ALPEN" is an acronym for "tasks", "length", "buffer time", "decisions" and "follow-up". So you write down all the things you have to do today, estimate how long you need for each task and also plan buffer time. Then you sort all the to-dos according to priority, work through them one after the other and check what you have achieved. Tasks that have been left undone are carried over to the next day.

Avoid these 5 common mistakes

Even if you've managed to prioritize wisely, there are still a few pitfalls you can stumble upon. We have compiled the 5 most common ones for you.

1. you have planned too little time for the individual tasks and in the end you do not manage to complete them all.

2. more and more to-do's are added throughout the day and you just kind of shove them in between. You lose the overview of the big picture and your prioritization was for the cat.

3. you are easily distracted and quickly throw your good intentions overboard.

4. sometimes it makes sense to leave certain tasks to others who are better suited for them. However, true to the motto "out of sight, out of mind", you forget to check the progress and at the end of the day the task may remain undone without you knowing about it.

5. you don't adjust your list of priorities as circumstances change, stealing valuable time from yourself.

Your next step for more meaningful prioritization

Setting priorities is an important step towards self-determination and Satisfaction. But there is one prerequisite: you must know what is really important to you in life, because that is also crucial in prioritizing.

Of course, we don't want to leave you alone with this. With our free workbook "Ten Business Coaching Tips for Your Career", you'll receive ten practical tips that you can apply immediately in your everyday work. With simple coaching methods and tools that business coaches also use, you'll be able to show off your new leadership and management skills to colleagues and superiors tomorrow. Get your copy now here Workbook!

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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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