How can I best prioritise my time?

This post is answering a reader question from last year’s survey. You can see more of my answers to reader questions here.

How can I best prioritise my time?

I love this question and it is one I have spent significant time researching and pondering over the years. To prioritise your time you need to of course know what your priorities are.

Did you know that the word priorities is a recent addition to our English language. For many years the word was only singular – priority, as I learnt when I read Essentialism by Greg McKeown. In his book he writes:

The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years.

Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things.

I think so many of us run into trouble prioritising our time, because we have too many priorities. This was certainly the case for me before I moved to setting a single goal. The single goal now acts as filter through which I assess tasks and new opportunities demanding my time.

It is my key driver for the year and is the cornerstone on how I work out where to spend my time. My weekly schedule reflects this too and as such it changes regularly to ensure it supports my goal properly.

My goal for the year is as follows:

goal 2016 - creativity and calm

Prioritising my time across the week to achieve my goal looks like this is:

  • Several mornings a week, I prepare dinner in advance due to after school activities. This means things are not so rushed for everyone when we come in late on those night and we can still eat dinner together as a family.
  • I don’t accept all invitations and attend all events weekday evenings as I prioritise staying home so I can be organised and well rested.
  • I spend about 30 minutes each evening to get things organised at night, so mornings run smoother for the family.
  • I choose to go to bed early, so I can get up early to exercise.
  • I want to attend as many things as I can at school with the kids, so I enter all their dates in my calendar first and try my best to fit work in around them.
  • I work on hard things first. The first hour of each work day, I allocate to a task that will directly help me achieve my business goal. Many times I don’t feel like doing it and would prefer to work on something easier, but this is not the best use of my morning. Mornings are my most productive time, so I need to choose carefully what work I do at this time.
  • I take lunch breaks. It is not possible to remain truly focused for hours upon hours. I used to have lunch at my computer or eat it while cooking in the kitchen, but I now realise that it does not save me any time to do this. Even if it is only 15 minutes, I will sit and eat lunch (in the sun if there is any!) and be completely unplugged. It gives me the reboot I need to tackle the next task.
  • I single task. Multitasking is a myth and all it does is stress you out and slow you down. I choose to do one thing at a time so I can do it the best I can. I have written a post about it on the Problogger Blog that you might like to read – 2x Your Blog Writing Productivity and Reduce Your Stress by Single-Tasking
  • Each night I list down three key tasks I will achieve for the next day. You can read more about my to do list here – Creating an effective to do list.
  • I visualise my day. Very early in the morning, while I am getting ready to exercise, I go through in my mind what my day will look like. I will go from getting home from exercising until I go to bed. I know it sounds kind of “whoo whoo” but it really works. When I get into my day and I am faced with what to do next, my visualisation is still fresh in my mind and it helps push me in the right direction. To make a better choice about where I spend my time – for example, playing with the kids after school instead of doing more house work.

After this, when I am faced with a decision on where to spend my time, I make an assessment on what the overall harmony of family life has been like. If there is an invite for me to have a day out with girlfriends and everything is going well at home, I will go.

If on the other hand, there is an invite for me to have a day out with girlfriends and I have been working more than usual, the older kids have exams and the younger kids have been constantly annoying each other, I look to my goal of wanting to create space for calm and creativity and I know the right choice is to miss this day with girlfriend and catch up at the next one.

Sometimes though I have made plans well in advance, only to realise that I am going away over a weekend which is super full on for the rest of the family. This was the case with a recent trip to Brisbane.

I still went to Brisbane, but made sure in the lead up I prioritised my time working on getting things as organised as I could for the family in my absence. I know they would have survived without me doing this, but for me doing this was an important step towards achieving my goal.

As mums we are constantly pulled in many directions at once, having to make a call on where we spend our time. Setting a goal to help you know what your over arching priority is can help you navigate this minefield of decisions.

Need some help prioritising your time?

Sometimes the list of things we feel we have to do, the things we want to do and things other people want us to do can be overwhelming. Having a single goal can help you set your priorities and have a focus that you can filter decisions through. If you would like help setting a single goal then my e-course Planned & Present can help you. Through out the course lessons I will take you on a journey where we work out where you are spending your time now, determine where you want to be spending it and creating a plan to get you there. The course will deliver to you:

  • Clarity and confidence to deal with competing interests – by determining your “why” you can make navigating this minefield much easier.
  • Creation of positive habits – through learning about why habits work and how you can fit them into your life permanently.
  • Routines, processes and plans to organise the chaos of family life – there are templates for you to use and routines to follow, so you don’t have to start from scratch.

Planned + Present is a seven week e-course to take you from feeling our of control and overwhelmed to feeling planned and present. It is a step-by-step guide on how to organise the chaos of family life while still leaving space to enjoy it.

With the drive of wanting to be organised it can be easy to forget why we want to be organised – to be able to spend more time enjoying our family. The course teaches you how to establish plans and processes for those repetitive tasks of family life, allowing you to be more effective and efficient with your time, so you can be more present with your family. It also shows you how you can spread some of the workload to others in the family, so you don’t feel like you are the worker bee all the time.

Planned and Present includes seven in-depth lessons, for you to work through. And with lifetime access to the course, it’s okay if you fall behind.

To find out more about Planned & Present and sign up for the course head here – Planned & Present.