Staying Focused by Setting Priorities Daily

When I started working from home, I thought keeping track of my to-do list was going to be a breeze. Without a commute and more time on my hands, I figured I would be able to handle my personal list with more forethought and I would manage my work tasks as I always had. However, working from home gets messy. It’s tempting to do the laundry while on a conference call and at all times, unfinished home projects and chores are staring me in the face.

Additionally, an unforeseen aspect of working from home is every small task has to be coordinated. I am physically unable to just drop by someone’s desk to chat over some details. Everything is either a phone call or meeting, which takes scheduling matching and a bit more effort.

In short, I found working from home to be overwhelming. So much to do constantly in my face. This doesn’t pair well with being an overachiever. I was always thinking about what wasn’t getting done, drowning in the sheer size of my to-do list.

Something had to change.

I took my cue from these new age planners that claim to increase your productivity and output. You know the ones – they have charts and trackers. While the daily input needed to maintain these planners/journals is a bit more than I’m willing to commit every day, there is one element that drew my attention – setting my top 3 priorities.

We’ve all been told that the best way to handle a large task is to break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Well, my to-do list is constantly one huge task and I definitely need to break it down.

Using a journal I already have, I resolved to set my top three priorities for home and work every morning. No special planner. No print-outs. Just me, a piece of paper, and a pen. Oh, and my to-do lists. See, I still keep a running to-do list of everything I need to get done. For work, it’s in OneNote. For home, the list lives in my planner.

Over breakfast every morning, I pull up my calendars and my lists. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, I take the time over eggs and toast to harness my energy and attention for the day. Two columns on a piece of paper are all I need – “Top 3 – Home” and “Top 3 – Work”. Of all the things on my to-do lists, I pick the top 3 items that must get done that day for me to feel like the day is well spent.

Some days, the home list includes big things like “Go to Post Office to Mail Invitations” but on days when I don’t have anything significant to accomplish, I tack on something fun and easy, such as paint nails or work on a craft project for fun.

For work, the priorities list is my best tool. Like most work environments, mine can shift in the blink of an eye. Additionally, working from home blurs the lines of “work time” and “home time”, which can easily get out of hand if my workload gets away from me. This is why it’s so important to understand what I absolutely must accomplish each day. I can always squeeze in more work into my day, but that’s a great way to burn myself out, set unrealistic expectations, and possibly make the quality of my work suffer. Instead, every day I ensure I finish three key tasks sometime within my day while handling all the other items that fly my way. Ultimately, this keeps me agile but focused.

I started this habit as a 30 Day Challenge and now I couldn’t imagine my daily life without it. Low investment (both materially and time) with extremely high reward. Give it a shot and let me know how it works out for you!

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