There’s never enough time to do everything you want to do. It’s a universal problem. And we all accept that fact and live with its reality until the worst-case scenario rears its ugly head:
There’s not enough time to do everything you have to do.
For example, you have 300 tasks on your to-do list. Which one is the most important?
So, what can you do?
Schedule Important Tasks
Unfamiliar but important tasks often have a learning curve that makes how much time they’ll take to complete unpredictable. Working on them often feels more clumsy than efficient, which is another subtle factor in why we don’t do them. The “clear the decks” strategy of allowing yourself a full day, even when that seems excessive, can be useful in these cases.
So that you don’t put off important personal care, try having a designated time slot once a week that’s available for you to make a personal appointment during work hours, should this be necessary.
Isolate the Most Impactful Elements of Important Tasks
If you habitually set goals so lofty you end up putting them off, try this: When you consider a goal, also consider a half-size version. Mentally put your original version and the half-size version side by side, and ask yourself which is the better (more realistic) goal.
Spend Less Time on Unimportant Tasks
Unimportant tasks have a nasty tendency of taking up more time than they should. For example, you might sit down to proofread an employee’s report — but before you know it, you’ve spent an hour rewriting the whole thing. In the future, you might decide to limit yourself to making your three most important comments on any piece of work that’s fundamentally acceptable, or give yourself a time limit for how long you’ll spend providing notes.
Having strategies for making quicker decisions can help too. When you’ve got a pressing decision to make, it can be better to make a quick decision than a perfect one that takes more time.
Pay Attention to What Helps You See and Track the Big Picture
If you’re struggling with prioritizing the important over the urgent, don’t be too hard on yourself. The number of deadlines and decisions we face in modern life, juxtaposed with the emotionally (and cognitively) challenging nature of many important tasks, makes this struggle an almost universal one. I’ve written entire books on how to focus on the big picture and stop self-sabotaging, and I still find it difficult. I consider success as taking my own advice at least 50% of the time! This is a reasonable rule of thumb that you might adopt, too.