A few ideas on how to prioritize.
Hands down, the question I get asked the most is if I can share / teach / talk about how to prioritize. At any point in time, there are a million and one things that we could do, ideas that we could pursue, articles and social media platforms and people competing over our attention - and I get it. It's really, really hard to decide what's important and what's not.
The truth is: I've put off writing about this topic week after week after week because it scares me. Because I don't have an answer to the question. Today though when I looked at the list of ideas for new blog articles I felt really bad because I feel like I let every single one of you who asked me that question down because I haven't addressed it out of fear you wouldn't like my answer.
That - coming from me, the one who preaches authenticity and vulnerability - makes me a hypocrite. So today I set out to write about the topic that scares me because I don't know how to answer your question: How to prioritize.
Truth is, prioritization is hard because different things matter to different people. Different people live in different circumstances. Circumstances change. Life changes. What matters to you changes. What's important for your business changes. Heck, even if you business is important to you at all changes!
So first thing to remember when thinking about prioritization is: What matters to you today might not matter to you tomorrow. And that's okay.
Now, that being said, there are a few general things that I use to figure out what I want to and / or should work on next. I thought I'd share them with you - in no particular order - in hopes of inspiring you to look at how you decide what to work on next and what you can experiment with if you're struggling to prioritize.
Here's what I look at:
1. How much time I have
This one is pretty straight forward. The day only has 24 hours. And I want to sleep, eat, knit, have dinner with my partner, see friends, AND work. So if I only have half an hour I'm not going to spend that half an hour to start writing a blog post. I will spend it answering emails or replying to Instagram comments or planning out my next day or writing a list. (Writing a list is an awesome way to spend a few minutes, regardless of how much time you have.)
Also relevant to this: The Maker vs. Manager Schedule theory which I've written about here.
2. How much energy I have
The quietest work place with the perfect coffee and the empty stretch of two hours in front of me that I could spend writing that perfect newsletter are worth nothing if I'm too tired, too grumpy, too restless.
Matching my energy and my mood to my tasks has - hands down - been one of the scarier, but most productive things I've ever come across. It sounds woo-woo, but it really is not.
Think about it: How often did you force yourself to do something you clearly didn't feel like doing only for it to take up three times as much time as it would have had you worked on it while you really wanted to?
So even if I have two free hours that I could spend on writing awesome creative content - if I don't have the energy for it I don't do it (unless #4). I make something instead or I listen to my gut to see what it says I have energy for right now. And sometimes (quite often, actually) it tells me "Go take a nap, come back, let's get to work". And I listen.
3. What brings me money
Money. The dirty word no one talks about, but we really should talk about more often. Yes, I do prioritize things that bring me money sometimes, some months often, some months not so often. Things like sewing and preparing a shop update and sending out emails to potential stockists for the book and writing promo emails for my Exploration Calls.
This is - by the way - a great way to decide what to work on if there are multiple things on your to do list that require the same amount of time (#1) and energy (#2). Choosing the thing that brings you money is never a bad choice.
4. What needs to get done because otherwise someone gets really mad and / or can't do their job
Uh-oh. Yeah. I hate reneging on promises, and I hate being unreliable. You know why? Because more often than not I've been at the other end, waiting for someone to do their job so that I could start doing mine. NOT A GOOD FEELING. Which is why if there's something I promised someone to do or I know someone needs from me this gets prioritized.
Also relevant: Only biting off as much as you can chew. Something I try to get better at (some days I fail, others I don't.)
5. What brings me joy
Oh yeah. The elephant in the room. Well - technically speaking, usually everything that I need to do brings me joy (yes, even doing my taxes now because I have an awesome accountant!). But! Some days I just really FEEL like doing a certain thing. Or I really DON'T feel like doing a certain other thing.
I'm trying to listen to those feelings because my gut is usually right when it wants me to do something. No idea why, but listening to yourself and your body is generally a good idea. So if I really, really want to do something and that thought doesn't go out of my head, I do it.
Phew. Writing this wasn't even as scary as I thought. I sincerely hope these nuggets of how I tend to prioritize help you in understanding yourself and how you want to prioritize a little bit better. Because that's something I realized while I was writing this article: There's really no wrong or right way to do this. There's a right way to do this for YOU right NOW - and that's the one you need to find. Play around with the ideas above to figure out what the right way is for you - stay flexible, stay open, talk to other people how they do it and figure out what works for you.
Also - I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Was I being totally ridiculous in putting off writing about this for so long? Please tell me below in the comments!
Picture by Connor McSheffrey