The good news is that there is a way out of this feeling of frustration and overwhelm so that you can choose which tasks are the TRUE priority in any given moment. I call this micro-prioritizing.
And then there’s the bad news. The ability to micro-prioritize depends on you coming to terms with the idea that not everything is your #1 priority.
Think about it. If you have ever worked in a restaurant you know you are in a constant state of competing priorities – yet there is a flow to the process that keeps hungry people happy.
Or what about the President of the United States? His entire life is about “#1 priorities” and yet he can’t afford to be caught in prioritizing-paralysis. There is always a way out.
So how do you micro-prioritize?
Ask yourself big picture questions.
Here are a few of my favorite questions to ask that put my deliverables in a larger context. This helps me determine which task is truly my highest priority when I am overwhelmed:
>> What would I delegate, delay, or get rid of completely if I got sick and had to go home right now?
>> What would I delegate, delay, or get rid of completely if I was going on vacation in 2 hours?
>> What deliverable has the most consequences? The least?
>> Which deliverables have stretchable deadlines?
>> What deliverables are urgent AND important? (Thank you Stephen Covey)
Before asking yourself these questions, take 30 seconds to breath deeply from your belly. This is going to rush oxygen to your brain, which is going to calm you down and help you think more clearly. Even better would be to take a 5-minute walk outside.
The more you plan your days and weeks ahead of time, the less micro-prioritizing you will need to do. Pre-prioritizing offsets most in-the-moment-prioritizing.
Communicating with other involved parties is a critical piece of this puzzle. Often this is the real source of anxiety. Make it a regular practice to keep people abreast of your capacity and progress and you will find it easier to prioritize.
Distinguish between YOUR priorities and others’ priorities. Often the feeling of “everything being #1” is a result of taking on someone else’s perspective as your own.
So now it is your turn to tell me what you think. How does this process work for you? How do you manage your competing priorities? Please share!