OK, so now you’ve looked through your life and at all the things that you need to be doing to achieve your mission and long term goals, and you’ve eliminated all the activities that were wasting your time or don’t serve your goals. So what should you do with the rest of that long to-do list? Where do you start?
Create a Timeline
The first step is to look at the timeline of what you need to do to progress towards your long-term goals to work out your priorities in terms of time.
Break your goals down into smaller steps, so you know what you need to achieve in a year, then a month and then the current week. Doing this will put your activities in perspective and remove many of them from your focus for the time being, so you can just concentrate on what needs to be done now.
When you get down to the level of what you need to do this week, there will be some things that have to be done on specific days, such as appointments and regular meetings, which will already be blocked out on your calendar. There may also be some tasks that you can only do on certain days, due to the need for them to coincide with a particular event, so you can mark them as tasks for those specific days.
Prioritise Your Daily Tasks
Now that you’ve pared down your task list massively to the things that you want to or need to do this week, you need to prioritise them, but how? There are several different systems that can be used, most of them based on numerical or alphabetical systems.
You could just list the tasks for today as 1, 2, 3, etc. in the order that you’ll do them or you could mark each task alphabetically, with A being the most important, B the next most important, etc. But how do you decide which they are?
The ABCDE System
The system I like best for daily activities is the ABCDE system recommended by Brian Tracy. With this system you check over your list of tasks the night before and mark each of them with one of the following letters:
A: Tasks that you must do tomorrow, because if they aren’t done there will be serious consequences. These are often your Quadrant I tasks, but if you’re more organised, they could be Quadrant II tasks, i.e. the tasks that will yield most benefit in moving you towards your goal. Your A tasks could include getting that report finished, writing that article for Productive Muslim, doing the grocery shopping or taking your mother to the hospital.
If you have several tasks in this group, break them down further by listing them as A1, A2, A3, etc.
B: Tasks that you should do tomorrow, but if you don’t there will only be mild consequences. They may cause disappointment if not done or be tasks that could be done another day.
It may be that some tasks that are B tasks now could turn into A tasks if not completed soon, but they should never be done ahead of A tasks. B tasks could include contacting a potential new client, replying to a non-urgent e-mail, reading the latest edition of your professional journal or cleaning the bathroom.
C: Tasks that would be nice to do if you have time, but for which there will be no consequences if you don’t get around to them. These C tasks could include phoning a friend for a chat, going clothes shopping, reading your Facebook page or checking out that new gym.
D: Tasks you could delegate to someone else; that you don’t have to do yourself. If you can delegate these tasks to someone else, it will free you up to do more valuable work that either only you should do or that will move you towards your goals. These could include filing, data entry, gardening or carpooling for the school run.
E: Tasks that you should eliminate. If you’ve already evaluated all your activities on the matrix, you won’t have many tasks in this category, but there may be a few that have been carried over from the previous week that you didn’t get around to and are no longer relevant.
Once you have done this, it will be easy to apply the Pareto Principle to work out which ones are the top 20% of your A tasks that you should concentrate on first to get your 80% result for the day.
It is generally recommended to do these first thing in the morning when you start work, while you’re still fresh. This will ensure that you do get your most important tasks for the day done, so if one of life’s little emergencies does crop up, you won’t have to think about staying up late to complete them.
It takes some discipline to get into the habit of following the ABCDE system, as it’s very easy to start the day off slowly by checking your e-mail or doing less important jobs first. But force yourself to do it and once you get into the routine of prioritising your tasks and getting those most important ones done first, you’ll see your productivity soaring. It’ll also increase your motivation and self-esteem as you rise to higher levels of accomplishment.
About the Author
Amal Stapley, a life coach for Muslim women, founded the SuperMuslimah project atwww.coachamal.com to support, motivate and encourage Muslim women to step forward in their lives with confidence. After accepting Islam in 1992, she graduated from the International Islamic University of Malaysia with a degree in Psychology and Islamic studies, and then went on to work with Islamic organizations in the USA, Egypt and now works in her home country, the UK.