Welcome to the next post in my Re-prioritise mini-series, part of the Looking-Glass Translations productivity programme!

 

Most recent posts have been about choosing the right goals. From today, I’ll be discussing how to hack your to-do list to achieve these goals – starting with getting your priorities straight.

 

One of the most important things you’ll learn as an entrepreneur is how to prioritise your time.

Unfortunately, this is also one of the hardest things to master. When your business is a passion, it’s virtually impossible to decide what you want to do first – surely everything is important?!

 

The fact is this mind-set doesn’t work out in the long run.

If you can’t prioritise, you’ll end up feeling like an uphill cyclist in a high gear; you’ll go nowhere fast!

Bicycle gears

Don’t be that cyclist!

 

So what’s a poor entrepreneur to do?

To prioritise, it’s vital that you understand which of your to-dos are urgent and which are important. Let’s take a look at these two words:

 

Important:

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘important‘ as ‘of great significance or value’. When something is important, it’s vital to your business, life and well-being.

Urgent:

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘urgent‘ as ‘requiring immediate action or attention’. Urgent tasks are crises that need to be dealt with now to avoid getting out of hand.

 

When these two words are applied to our goals and to-do lists, they become strong allies in separating the wheat from the chaff.

 

Words are powerful, but words alone are not enough.

So let me reveal my secret weapon to prioritising my work…

 

The Eisenhower matrix

Or box. Some people, like James Clear  (whose lovely diagram I’ve borrowed), call it a box.

Let’s take a look:

 

The Eisenhower Matrix

Fun fact: the Eisenhower matrix was invented by the 34th US president (source)

 

Here’s how the matrix works:

Important and urgent: High-value tasks with a deadline that move your business forward, like translation and interpreting if you’re a linguist. Also includes quality control and crisis resolution (e.g. your washing machine is flooding your kitchen!).

Important but not urgent: Tasks you need to plan into your schedule before they become urgent. Often also includes tasks with long-term value like business development, networking and process optimisation. This is also where your health and leisure time goes (there’s a reason Marie Forleo calls downtime ‘non-negotiable’)!

Not important but urgent: Necessary tasks that take up a lot of time, but generate little added value. Includes distracting emails, meetings and calls that don’t directly contribute to your goals. These tasks are often very routine and can be easily automated, delegated or outsourced.

Not important and not urgent: Pure distraction and low-value busy work. You should eliminate as many of these tasks from your routine as possible. If they’re neither urgent nor important, they’re simply a waste of your time and stand between you and your goals.

 

The Eisenhower matrix is great, but it can be hard to work out what to ditch. The key here is to think about your goals. If a task doesn’t reflect them in any way, you probably don’t need to be doing it.

 

Prioritise tasks big and small

One of the best things about the Eisenhower Matrix is that you can use it for general and daily planning.

When combined with a well-structured to-do list, it becomes a potent force for productivity – and yet is still one of the simplest tools I’ve found for getting things done.

 

Agree this is important enough to explore further? Check out these links:

 

It’s your turn! Try creating a mini Eisenhower Matrix for your to-dos for the day. Did any of the results surprise you? What did you learn? Share your experience in the comments!

 

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