Time management Monday: Which thing should you do first?

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Trinote weekly planner

We’ve all been there: you have a pile of things to do, and you don’t even know where to begin. They all need to get done. Where do you start?

The situation to avoid is where you end up spiraling and getting nothing done, or being unable to focus and end up toggling between things and not finishing anything.

This is a guide to help you decide which thing to start on, then plow through your tasks.

The most obvious answer is, start with the highest priority item. Do whichever thing is due soonest, will get you in the most trouble if it doesn’t get done, and/ or will give you the highest reward when it’s completed.

But often, there’s no clear priority. Maybe you have a bunch of things all due at about the same time. Maybe you suddenly find yourself with a couple of empty hours that you want to use productively and not just let slip by. Maybe you just have a lot on your plate and it all needs to get done today.

Here are some tips to help you focus and decide which thing to do first:

Do the one you’re feeling the most right now. If the words for that report are starting to flow in your mind, jump on that and strike while the iron is hot. You’ll probably be able to get your report done in half the time when you are in the zone, than you would later when writing will feel like a slog.

Do the easiest/ quickest one first. If you are really feeling intimidated by everything you have to do, this will get you warmed up and give you a feeling of accomplishment right from the start. But don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security and use it as an excuse to slack off: you got something done so now you can relax for awhile, right? Wrong. Take a short break if you need to, then get back at it.

Do the hardest one first. To be honest, this approach is probably smarter than doing the easiest thing first. If you can get yourself to buckle down and face your most difficult task/ project, do it first while your mind is fresh. Later when you are tired, you can do the easier things.

Do whichever will take the longest first. If you have several things to do and one thing will take significantly longer than the others, do that one first, especially if it’s something that requires a continuous chunk of time. That way you’ll have the maximum amount of time to get it done, and if it takes longer than expected (as things often do), you’ll have the chance to complete it. You can fit in your shorter tasks when you’re done with the big one.

These techniques will get the ball rolling, and soon you’ll be cranking through your to-do list!

Planner shown: the Trinote weekly planner has categorized task lists and space for daily notes. To see all of our weekly planners with timed schedules and weekly task lists in all sizes including pocket, medium, large, and extra large, click here.

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