How to Decide What’s Important Right Now In 3 Easy Steps

Some days it seems impossible to try and do all that needs to be done – your bathroom faucet has sprung a leak, you’ve got a report that’s got to be on your boss’ desk by the end of the day and you’ve accidentally double-booked yourself and somehow, you’ve got to figure out how to be in two places at once.


It’s easy to get stressed out and feel like you can’t do it all, so why even try?

I’m here to tell you that you will inevitably feel better by doing something instead of nothing.  Here are some ways to help you how to decide what’s important right now:

1.   Do What Leaps Out At You

First of all, priorities that have to be dealt with immediately will be easy to spot.  They will jump out at you, like the faucet that’s gushing water or the email from your HR department saying that you must fill out that A-019 form in order to get paid this week.

There will be a natural order of things that will reveal itself.  Things that HAVE to be done today will naturally need to be done before the HAVE TOs of tomorrow.  Do these first, and you’ll feel great for having conquered the biggies.

2. The Next Step

The word “prioritize” sounds hard and like lots of work, so why not say “the next step”?  I think it sounds less foreboding and I find it much easier to do, despite it just being a different way of saying the same thing.

Choosing the next step is simple – write down everything that you have to do.  Then put it in order of deadlines, such as Monday: pay bills, Tuesday: report due, Wednesday: donation items being picked up, etc.  Then break down the steps you need to take.  Your report, for example – What do you have to do in order to complete it?  Research?  Interviews?  Compiling and writing?  Write all of those steps down and block off times in your schedule between now and then to get it all done on time.  You’ll see what needs to be done and when, which will help calm you and leave the feeling of being frazzled behind.

3. When Things Go Awry

This is when the feeling of being overwhelmed can take over.  When you get 3 last minute things piled on your desk that have to be done now.  What happens to that beautifully laid out plan you’ve just created?

All you have to do is this:

1.  Breathe.  It’s going to be okay.

2. Add these 3 things to the top of your list.

3. Go through these 3 first.  It may mean that you don’t get done what’s at the bottom of today’s list, but that’s what tomorrow is for.  Add them to the top of tomorrow’s list and know that you did everything you could for today.

That feels better, doesn’t it?

p.s. The Do & Delegate.list, Do & and NothingElse.pad do some of the work for you – just fill in the blanks and follow the steps!

Stephanie Dickison is the author of the recent book, The 30-Second Commute: A Non-Fiction Comedy About Writing & Working From Home, which covers her career as book, music and restaurant critic.  She has been a journalist for over a decade and now spends much of her time writing about travel, food, beauty, style and celebrities for various publications and websites.

When she’s not writing, she’s eating, cooking, organizing, filing, making lists in sumptuous notebooks (you must use your beautiful journals) and colour-coding her ever evolving calendar.

She is one of the few writers still using technology AND paper.  But at least her paper is organized into pretty file folders…