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Productivity: Prioritizing at Work

As long as everything gets done, it seems like prioritization doesn’t matter, right? According to Mike Vardy, productivity expert, choosing the right priority can make a large difference in your day. It can help mitigate stress and avoid the feeling of letting your team down. In this course, Vardy aims to help you define your priorities in a more personal and powerful way, set and keep priorities at the top of your mind and have an action plan to help you get a handle on your priorities. According to Vardy, you should come away from the course with greater awareness surrounding your priorities, increased focus working on your priorities, and the ability to manage activities when everything seems like a priority.

There are two mindsets that will help you prioritize with greater intention and attention. The first is a time-based mindset, in which tasks are prioritized based on what is urgent. A task-based mindset prioritizes tasks based on importance—time plays a secondary role in this mindset. Vardy suggests fostering a task-based mindset to accompany a time-based mindset. Balancing these two ways of operating ensures you’re prioritizing the right tasks at the right time and can help you become your most productive self.

Vardy has what he calls the “ABC’s of prioritization,” which are three questions to ask yourself about your to-do list to help you prioritize.  Start the day by asking yourself the “magic question,” Vardy suggests. There is no universal “magic question,” but Vardy says it’s a question that starts with “how” and is as specific as possible. Think of this kind of question as “how do I lose 25 pounds and keep it off?” rather than, “how do I lose weight?” Ask “what good shall I do this day?” next. What task will you complete that will feel great for you and your team to accomplish? Ask yourself what your top priority should be on your to-do list today. Review your to-do list and select one task as your top priority to help lead your time. Asking yourself questions can keep you on track by ensuring that you’re making measurable progress with the things you need to deal with and the things you really want to be doing.

Chronicle priorities and actions using a daily journal to either tell the story of the day, plan days to come or use as a tracking tool. Use a journal to break down priorities to assess them better, reflect on your past and reposition yourself for the future, and intentionally make better decisions with your time and attention. Consistency in chronicling helps you take charge of your time and your personal productivity.

By understanding what prioritization and priorities look like for you, developing the right mindsets, asking yourself the right question, recording your prioritization efforts and being consistent you can prioritize more effectively. Now you have the tools you need to get the most important things in your schedule done every hour, day, week, month or year. You’re on your way to becoming a more productive employee. 

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the view of the American Chemical Society.

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