The Young Entrepreneur's Guide to Prioritizing Your Day

Do you have one hour a week to learn to prioritize?

To create structure, you need to know exactly what is most important to you in life.

It's no secret that being an entrepreneur is one of the most stressful activities out there. There are too many reasons for a young entrepreneur to get stressed: Fear of the unknown, loneliness, financial concerns and, last but not the lest, workload.

There's no way to get rid of entrepreneurial stress for good: It's something you will have to cope with on a continuous basis, once you make a life-changing decision to become an entrepreneur. One feeling that is universal to most people on a daily basis is stress. Whether it is job-related stress, home-life worries, or financial anxieties, having a cluttered mind is the easiest way to exacerbate the feelings of stress. And, since stress is an unproductive emotion, the effects of it can cripple one's ability to improve the current situation.

There's some hope however: You can develop weekly habits to keep things under control and minimize stress. The best way to relieve stress, improve productivity, and feel achievement and success is to better prioritize your day.

The most effective way to deal with stress is learning to prioritize: In fact, Noam Lightstone, founder of Light Way Of Thinking and author of multiple books helping people to destroy anxiety and depression through self-improvement, suggests that only one hour a week dedicated to setting your priorities straight can help you reduce your stress dramatically.

Do you have one hour a week for that important task? If so, read along!

Society lives in an on-the-go world, and for most people, there isn't enough time in the day to accomplish all of the awaiting tasks: projects at work, children's appointments and events, home cleaning and improvements, and quality time with the family, just to name a few. That's exactly why busy lives need structure.

Establish Priorities

To create structure, you need to know exactly what is most important to you in life. If your highest priority is career advancement, the way you manage your time will be significantly different than someone who views family or recreation as the priority. First and foremost, find the priority that will help you achieve your ultimate goal, then base your daily priorities on that.

When it comes to priorities, my favorite quote to live by H. L. Hunt:

"Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work." (Source: bqotd.com)

It's all about deciding what you can and cannot do in order to get things done and achieve your goals.

Of course, that doesn't mean you can't advance your career and experience a healthy and harmonious family life; however, it may influence your larger decisions - like taking a promotion that requires more time in the office or moving to a new location for a job opportunity. Finding your deepest priorities will show you which tasks get more precedence in your daily life.

From theory to action: Use Action Priority Matrices from mindtools.com to score your regular tasks based (1) on their impact and (2) on the effort needed to complete them.

The matrix helps you identify the following types of tasks:

  • Quick wins = the most satisfying tasks. They are easy to complete while giving you some daily feeling of accomplishment. You want at least one quick win a day
  • Major projects = these are important but they need time to complete. You cannot do without these but you may want to allocate more time to each to manage your expectation properly
  • Fill-Ins = easy tasks that don't take much time and are not of too high importance. Include these into your to-do list only if you have a little extra time
  • Thankless Tasks = tasks that require too much time while not driving any good ROI. You may want to avoid these or delegate them to newer employees or interns as part of training.

In order to use the Action Priority Matrix, print the worksheet, drop your daily tasks in it and sort them using the chart. Keep it handy: It will help you with your daily and weekly to-do list as well as coming up with tasks to delegate to your team.

Create Daily To-Do Lists Based on Your Priorities

Once you've thought your priorities through, it's time to focus on how those integrate into your daily routine and make a realistic to-do list. If you have a board meeting at 2 p.m. and a parent-teacher conference at 2:30 p.m., putting both on your to-do list will make it rather unlikely that you'll successfully complete your list.

Of course, the entrepreneurial lifestyle is not that easy to organize: You need to maintain your work-life balance as well as get things done on a regular basis. There's much more to it than sorting regular tasks using the matrix. There's something new coming up daily and no one tool can figure this out for you.

From theory to action:

Cyfe is an all in one business dashboard that I have been using and recommending for years. It isn't perfect for those who want a set of features that are already in place. But if you want customizability, it doesn't get more unique than Cyfe. It allows you to create widgets based on your needs and control them all in a single place. They have both a free and a paid version, which is only $19 per month, $20 for white label.

The beauty of using Cyfe is that you can create a single dashboard to consolidate many important tools and access of all them from one place. For example, the widgets I am using are:

  • Google calendar that integrates with my Apple calendar. I get daily reminders of projects and meeting and it also shows overlapping tasks helping me sort these out
  • Gmail to allow me a quick glance at my email as well as quickly access my Gmail dashboard from there (in case anything needs attention)
  • My daily to-do list (a simple text editor that evolves on a daily basis). There's a lot of integration with to-do list managers if you are prefer using an app. For example, Cyfe integrates with Todoist.
  • Digital clock (My team is distributed, so I need to quickly see what time it is in different parts of the world)
  • Google Spreadsheet (using an iFrame widget)
  • There's much more you can do with the tool. Here's a detailed tutorial.

Execute Your List in Order

Start your list with the item that is the most important for that day. This could be a work project you must complete, an errand you have to run, or an event you need to attend. Doing this will help you make sure you accomplish that item during the day.

Your other tasks and events should follow in the order of most important to least important. Take note not to fill up your to-do list with "wishes." If it is highly unlikely you'll accomplish the task, place it on another list, a running supplementary list for when you accomplish your priority tasks.

From theory to action:

Here's one-time task to include in your to-do list right now: Pick one-three (not more!) tools that will help you organize things while still keeping you inspired and motivated. It's not an easy task though and you need to take it seriously. Don't start with too many tools because they will eat up your precious time. A good tool is key here though: Here's a good list of free and freemium tools for you to try. Most of those tools have free trial, so you can quickly get a feel if this is something you'll enjoy using. The tool categories to look into:

  • To-do list managers
  • Email automation (e.g. auto-follow-up to team members, turning emails into tasks, etc.)
  • Reading lists
  • Time tracking tools (which will ultimately help you estimate what takes more time and can be optimized)

Think One Project at a Time

While it may be unlikely in your field of work or your home life, it can help to work on one task at a time. Multitasking can help clutter up your mind, so following through on one project at a time will help you retain focus on your day's priorities.

Prioritizing the day is an essential task, and a to-do list can make this easier to do. Using the aforementioned tips, you may reduce your stress and find yourself freeing up more of your most precious commodity - time.

Productivity, Priorities

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