Yes, you know what it is.
I know you know what it is because I do know what it is.
I’m referring to setting priorities to achieve your big goals in life.
You see your days draining down, and you’re not moving forward in any of your tasks, projects, goals…
It’s a feeling of emptiness. The void.
I know it because I’ve been there. I know the feeling, the sensation, how bad it is.
Today I can say I overcame it.
You have to defeat 2 enemies
When talking about feeling and being productive, you have to face 2 enemies:
On the one hand, procrastination is mainly not doing what you should because you’re “not in the mood”.
On the other hand, urgency is just focusing on doing the things that are, in theory, very urgent.
The point is both of them, procrastination and urgency, are much more related to each one than you may think.
There are hundreds of times when you consider something urgent because you’re procrastinating on an important task.
Do these scenarios sound familiar?
- I gotta check my e-mail because there are very important things there. Really?
- Let’s create a meeting to manage all this stuff. Is it 100% necessary?
- I’m going to call this guy, no matter I don’t need to do it until next week. Then, why don’t you wait until next week?
Because of procrastination, you start converting things into urgent matters because they’re “the perfect excuse”.
In this article, I will focus on the “urgent” concept because whenever you manage it, you can start avoiding procrastination, killing two birds with one stone.
Step 1: Create a top-down methodology
First of all, you need to create a methodology based on priorities.
You need to define, crystal clear, what’s important to you.
To do so, I always start with “big questions” such as:
- What do I want to do in my life?
- What do I want to be?
- What are the things that I do really consider important to me?
- What gives sense to my life?
- Where do I want to be 1, 3, or 5 years from now?
These kinds of questions will let you know what’s really important to you, what matters to you.
Once you’ve answered those questions, list high-level goals, things that are very easy to think, to write them down.
Forget about precision. Just write all the things you want to achieve.
These could be high-level goals:
- I want to be fit.
- I want to be a writer.
- I want to be more relaxed.
- I want to lose weight.
Later on, just focus on one high-level goal and think about what low-level goals you can pursue.
For example, if I want to be a writer, these could be low-level goals:
- I want to write an article each week.
- I want to journal every weekend.
- I want to write a daily Whatsapp message to my son.
As you can see, low-level goals are much more tangible, easier to understand, easy to try to accomplish.
Now you have:
- Big questions.
- High-level goals.
- Low-level goals.
At this point, you just need to list all the tasks you need to do to achieve each low-level goal.
If some of the tasks are related to each other, create a project.
A project will give you that bird’s eye you need to not lose yourself in the dozens of tasks you may have created.
Step 2: Set priorities
For each of your big questions, you have to order them based on your priorities.
I recommend not having more than 5 big questions. If you have 10, just focus on the 5 “really big ones”.
Ordering a list of 5 items by priority is a game of kids. Isn’t it?
“To change your life, you need to change your priorities.”
— Mark Twain
This order in your big questions will determine the priority of your:
- High-level goals.
- Low-level goals.
So, if a task belongs to your top priority big question, that’s a task of the highest priority. You have to do it above all others.
Step 3: Plan your week
During my weekly review, I look at all my goals, projects, and tasks.
I decide what tasks I’ll do next week based on the priorities I set, and I schedule them on my calendar.
Scheduling will tell you if you’re too ambitious. It will bring reality to your life.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
— Stephen Covey
I just schedule a maximum of 3 tasks each day. The rest is clear for the “unexpected events”.
The golden question
When you have everything planned and something unexpected knocks on your door, this is the simple question I always ask myself:
What would happen if I don’t do this unexpected thing today?
Be honest. Don’t lie to yourself.
Is it really “the end of the world” if you don’t do that task today?
By asking yourself this question, you will find out that, most of the time, this unexpected task can perfectly be delayed, at least, until tomorrow.
The great consequences
With this technique, you always win:
- If the unexpected task is delayed, your planning is not affected.
- If the unexpected task cannot be delayed, you’re 100% sure it’s not only an urgent thing: it’s also AN IMPORTANT ONE!
This technique was life-changing to me, referring to setting priorities and managing importance vs. urgency, a critical concept to progress in your important/critical/essential goals in life, those that will drive you to fulfillment and, finally, to happiness.
A big discovery
I made a big discovery using the golden question.
I detected things that I thought were urgent and had to be done, sometimes (much more than I thought), were never done… AND NOTHING HAPPENED!
They disappeared just by delaying them (someone else did them, nobody did them, nobody asked about them anymore…).
This discovery showed me the concept of “urgency” is totally subjective.
It’s something I can think or, usually, something that “others” may think.
Focusing on those “urgent things” is how you start doing other people’s things or those you want to do to avoid the important ones (procrastination).
Today, my BIG GOALS move forward every day a little bit, step by step.
Don’t forget to follow these steps when setting your priorities to perform at your best:
- Set your priorities thinking of what’s essential in your life.
- Schedule your important tasks the week before.
- Schedule a maximum of 3 important tasks each day.
- Whenever an unexpected thing appears, ask the golden question: What would happen if I don’t do this unexpected thing today?
- Don’t be afraid to delay those unexpected tasks. You will see they disappear most of the time. They never needed to be done.
- Focus on your 3 important tasks every day. Whenever you do so, compound interest and time will make the rest.
Go for it!