Many years ago, I had to complete student work assignments for my occupational therapy degree. Students were rated on their performance, including the area of productivity skills. One area checked on my evaluation was learning to prioritize better. I asked for a specific example and the supervisor told me,”Oh, that will come with age.” I scratched my head and wondered whatever did she mean? Practicing occupational therapy at a student level was stressful stuff. It was one thing studying treatment techniques from a book. But actually working with a patient was a different story.

Prioritizing projects and tasks can seem impossible when under high stress.  Figuring out how to organize tasks, projects or responsibilities can become overwhelming, when everything seems like a crisis. Organizing what to do first can seem impossible if everything looks important.

Prioritization is necessary to sort through lists and get things done. If you choose tasks of less importance to complete first, it is easy to misjudge time needed for a specific project. Here are four ways to focus and get more things done:

Get Clear on Your Values. When several tasks are on your to do list, it is essential to know what matters most to you. Values will determine your next step or help you say no to prevent taking on too much. Getting clear on your values can help prevent over-obligating your precious time.

Look at Your Expectations. Deadlines are enough pressure without high expectations pushing you over the edge.  Expecting the perfect performance can put incredible pressure on you. We are humans not machines.  Expectations can also get distorted when deciding how much to complete in one day. Do your best but remember not to judge your performance if you fall short of finishing your list.

Write It Down. There are several ways to sort through prioritizing projects or tasks. There are a variety of worksheets to help you figure out what tasks are urgent or not to pressing to finish. One of my favorite ways to organize tasks is using sticky notes. I first write the project on a big sticky note. I then use smaller sticky notes to organize the project. This system is so helpful since I am getting my ideas onto paper and then can move the notes around to clearly see my next step. This technique is really helpful when you have several projects happening at once.

Share The Work. After you have written down your plan, evaluate what parts can be done by others. Ask if tasks can be outsourced to other people, such as virtual assistants or other free-lance help. Can other office mates, friends or family members pitch in to get the job finished? Remember, you don’t have to do the project by yourself. over 25 years in the health care profession, Lisa Birnesser has studied stress relief techniques and have helped hundreds of people reduce stress in their lives.Lisa specializes stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.

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