Prioritizing Priorities: 3 Ways to Not Waste Your Time With Pointless BS

Even if we know what our priorities are, it is hard to stay focused on them.

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(This article is a continuation of Eyes on the Prize: Prioritizing What Matters at Work)

Congratulations! You’ve taken the time to reflect on where you can make the biggest impact at work and now you’ve got a beautiful set of priorities. 

Problem solved? Almost. 

Just because we’ve defined our priorities doesn’t necessarily mean we will be effective in actually prioritizing them. There are countless influences, both internal and external, that can derail our focus on what is important.

This article speaks to practices we can implement to ensure that our priorities stay top of mind. 

Our Own Worst Enemy

It’s easy to pass the blame for our inability to focus on our priorities to external factors (requests from coworkers, a busy home life, etc.), but the truth of the matter is, we don’t do ourselves any favors. 

In many cases, we actually manufacture distractions from our priorities. Why? Because our priorities are scary! They are the most important work we can be doing. They have the most impact and are often the most visible. It’s way more comfortable to clean out our inboxes or attend pointless meetings. 

99.9% of removing external distractions is setting effective boundaries. We’ve already covered that, so let’s spend some time focusing on how we can eliminate the distractions we create for ourselves. 

“OK Google: Remind me to stop wasting time.”

We’ve discussed ideas from Tim Ferris’ book, The Four Hour Work Week, before, but this one is one of my favorites. To keep yourself from getting too far adrift with self-imposed distractions, Ferris recommends setting reminders three times a day which read: “Am I inventing things to avoid the important?”

Easy, right? No one said this had to be complicated. These alerts give you multiple opportunities to recalibrate your focus if you’ve found yourself lost in a wormhole of unimportance. 

Keep Things in Perspective

Last thing from Tim Ferris, I swear. One of my favorite maxims from his book is: “Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.”

You can draft a Pulitzer Prize-winning proposal, but if the proposal doesn’t support your top priorities, then it’s just a really well written waste of time. 

Put this maxim on a sticky note somewhere you can see it and reflect on it when you find yourself breaking out your book of sonnets to send administrative emails. 

Find an Accountability Partner

Accountability is a huge performance driver. Research shows that your chances of success improve when you commit to doing something, and your chances improve even more when you make that commitment publicly known.  As Thomas Monson says, “When performance is measured, performance improves.”

But performance measurement doesn’t need to be a stressful exercise that happens every quarter with your boss. It can (and should) be done on a more frequent basis in a safe environment. This is what makes accountability partners so awesome. 

Accountability partnerships are mutually beneficial relationships that keep both parties on track. Find a trusted coworker and discuss your priorities with one another. Grab coffee every week and share what you are committed to doing that week. When you get back together, share what you accomplished and discuss what you could have done differently if you lost your way. 

For more research and best practices on accountability partnerships, click here. 

Wrapping Up

Phew! There you have it. We’ve tackled how to define our priorities and how to stay focused on them. It’s always an uphill battle in the world of constant distractions that we live in, but hopefully these tools and practices will equip you with what you need to get started. 

Go forth and prioritize!

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