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Forrest Gump, one of America’s early life coaches, taught us all many years ago life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you will find. Sometimes prioritizing (and organizing) is like a box of chocolates, too.
After receiving a box of chocolate as a gift from a department I gave a presentation to, I stumbled across this stunning metaphor. What can I say? Chocolate makes me a genius.
When dealing with a box of chocolate, I eat the dark chocolate first, dark chocolate with fruit second, milk chocolate third, and milk chocolate with fruit last. If there’s white chocolate, it’s the very, very last. I love chocolate, but I have my priorities – which is my point.
We face boxes of chocolate each day, and we make choices on how we spend our time and what tasks we complete. It’s easier to choose chocolate over anything lurking on your to-do list. No matter how much I love dark chocolate, there are times when I have to deal with white chocolate, i.e. the stuff I don’t really want to deal with but I have to because I’m a grown-up with responsibilities.
You may not always feel motivated to work on your priorities. But, the good news is that there are things you can do to make it easier to focus on the right things at the right time.
5 Ways to Focus on Your Priorities
1. Work on your MIT (Most Important Thing) First.
One item on your to-do list has to be a higher priority than the others. If everything is important, then nothing is important. So, start with your MIT first.
2. Take a bite
Whenever possible, spend time on your MIT before opening e-mail and getting sucked into the craziness of the day. Even if it’s just 15 to 20 minutes, it will make a difference to how you feel and how productive you are.
Take a bite of your MIT and bask in that sense of accomplishment you will generate for the rest of the day.
3. Limit multitasking
Turn off e-mail, the Internet, and other distractions while you’re trying to focus. Multitasking reduces our productivity by up to 40 percent which is why driving and texting can make you more dangerous than a drunk driver.
To help you practice focusing, use the Time Timer app and set it for 15 minutes when you begin working on your project.
4. Set yourself up for success
It’s easy to say something is our priority, but the execution is really what counts. You have to set yourself up for success by making it easy. Let’s say you want fitness to be your priority.
How do you make that happen? If you want to exercise in the morning, lay your workout clothes by your bed (before you go to bed). If you want to save money by bringing your lunch to work, pack it the night before so it’s all ready to go. When you make decisions in advance, it’s easier for you to follow the priorities you want to follow.
5. Use a map
Unlike Forrest Gump, I actually use the little map that shows what each chocolate is. Boxes of chocolate aren’t really mysterious, and you don’t have to pinch the corner or take a bite to figure out what you have. Since we humans don’t come with our own maps or guidebook, create your own
- Schedule your priorities on your calendar to block off time to work on them
- If you have a mantra or a goal, have it hanging up where you can see it
- Keep track of strategies that work well for you and incorporate them in your daily routines to help you manage your day
Knowing what your priorities are and making them the star of your day eliminates those chocolate surprises Forrest likes.