By Gretchen Duhaime • May 28, 2012•Balancing Private and Professional Life
Does your head spin when you try to figure out what you need to tackle first and what can wait until later? Setting priorities (and sticking to them) makes it a snap to organize your to-do list. But what do you do when things seem equally as important? You want to help your son with his science project, but you also need to prepare a report (or spreadsheet, or brief) by morning.
I used to get so frustrated in these situations. It seemed like a problem I should be able to solve easily. After all, I’m not the first working parent on the planet. If I made one choice, I’d be a bad mom, and if I made the other choice I wouldn’t be very good at my job.
Maybe you think if you had planned better you wouldn’t be in this situation, or maybe someone else put you there by slacking off on their end.
In any case, what’s next? Do you stay up all night to get everything done? Or is your son on his own? Or can work deal with your thing being a day late?
Here are 3 quick tips to make prioritizing simple:
Quick Tip #1: Take a breath.
Trying to set priorities in a frenzy will come back to bite you. There’s lots of neuroscience research that supports the value of taking a moment - a few deep breaths, a cup of tea, even a bite of chocolate.
If you feel confused, it’s because you are - stress can activate the fight-or-flight response, crippling your ability to think critically and rationally. So stop and take a breath.
Quick Tip #2: Look at the long-term.
It’s easy to think about someone’s reaction today or tomorrow and make a decision in return. But what will happen next week, next month, next year if you put off (or miss) that deadline?
Keeping sight of the long-term can be really hard when we’re keeping a fast pace and need to make snap decisions. Make a habit of stepping back for a moment every now and again and examining future consequences.
Quick Tip #3: Follow your gut.
Sometimes all the evidence points one way but you just feel you need to do the opposite. I’m here to tell you that’s OK.
We take in a lot more information than we can process, and we process a lot more information than we can understand. So it’s likely your gut is picking up on something your brain missed and you’ll thank it later.
Knowing your priorities will reduce your stress, and help you make better decisions.
Even just taking the time to stop and think about a decision will be more calming. And remember, you always make the right decision, because it’s the one you made.
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