TIB #45: Prioritize like a Pro: 1 sentence to triage all distractions coming your way!

Written by Arno Jansen

Let’s dive into a topic that we can all relate to: How to triage tasks, requests and distractions and prioritize like a pro!

Why bother learning this skill, you ask? Well, let’s face it, we’re all juggling multiple roles in our lives. Whether it’s being an entrepreneur, parent, caregiver, or dealing with a day job on top of our side hustles, we’re all in need of some serious prioritization skills to get everything done effectively and efficiently.

Unfortunately, many of us struggle with this. It’s easy to get sidetracked by shiny new tasks, requests, or distractions that pop up throughout the day. But fear not, we’re here to help you overcome these obstacles and become a pro prioritiser!

You lack a simple triage system to prioritize like a pro

So why do so many of us struggle with prioritization in the first place? I can think of a few reasons:

  • We don’t know how to say no
  • We’re too easily distracted
  • We don’t have a clear understanding of what’s important
  • We’re not holding ourselves accountable

But don’t worry, I’ve got your back! With a few simple steps, you’ll be able to overcome these obstacles using one simple sentence.

“Do I Have To Do This Now?”

The first step to prioritizing like a pro is to use the sentence “Do I Have To Do This Now?” It’s simple but effective.

Whenever something comes up, just stop for a minute and ask yourself this question a few times, emphasizing a different word each time.

By emphasizing different words in the sentence, you’ll be able to determine:

  • Urgency
  • Importance
  • Responsibility
  • Timeliness
  • Action

1 – Urgency

DO I have to do this now?

→ determines Urgency

To determine if it’s necessary to act upon the incoming thing immediately, ask yourself if it’s urgent or if it can wait. For example, if it’s an email that needs a response, but it’s not urgent, you can postpone it until later in the day. Focus on “Do” to evaluate if it’s necessary to act on it now.

Go ahead, say it out loud. Do you hear it? Now you know if this thing is urgent. But, urgent does not mean important, nor does it automatically imply that you are the one having to deal with it.

Lets continue.

2 – Responsibility

Do I have to do this now?

→ determines Responsibility

To determine if it’s your responsibility to deal with it, ask yourself if you are the best person to handle the task. Sometimes, it may be more appropriate to delegate it to someone else. Focus on “I” to evaluate if it’s really your responsibility to deal with it.

3 – Importance

Do I have to do this now?

→ determines Importance

To determine if it’s a must-do item or if it’s a nice-to-have, ask yourself if it’s critical to achieving your goals or if it’s a low priority. If it’s not essential, you can postpone it until later. Focus on “Have to” to evaluate if it’s a must-do item or if it’s a nice-to-have.

It is not selfish to postpone these actions or request or deny doing them altogether, so that you can focus on what you deem more important.

4 – Action

Do I have to do this now?

→ determines Action

To determine how it compares to the thing you are currently working on, ask yourself if it’s more important than what you’re currently doing or if it can wait until later. Focus on “This” to compare the incoming thing with what you are currently working on.

5 – Timeliness

Do I have to do this now?

→ determines Action

Very similar to number 1, but don’t skip this last one!

With all that knowledge about responsibility, importance, timeliness and action required, ask yourself one more time if you need to act on it at this very moment.

Saying “yes” means, you abandonwhat it is that you were doing(for now) and switch context to deal with the incoming task, request or distraction.

Wrapping up

By following these steps, you can quickly evaluate incoming tasks, requests, or distractions and prioritize them accordingly.

This will enable you to focus on what matters most and achieve your goals more efficiently and effectively.

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