We all know the feeling: Waking up in the morning, getting to work and realizing there is so much to be done that you don’t even know where to start. I have fallen culprit to this feeling one too many times, and had you asked me a few months ago, I would have said there is no way to avoid the frustration from too many responsibilities. I consider myself to be a notorious planner, but what I have recently realized is that planning does not mean prioritizing. Prioritizing means determining what the most important thing on your to-do list is, and sticking to one task at a time.
Here are some ways to start prioritizing and organizing during your workdays.
1. Make lists your best friend.
“Divide and conquer” is a great way to make your workload seem more approachable. I recommend a good, old fashioned list, wherein number one is the most pressing task, number two the next, and so on and so forth. Once you have created a general to-do list, add details to each number. If number one reads, “Write monitoring and evaluation report,” what are the actual steps to getting this done? These steps can be listed as 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc. I draw boxes next to each item on my list, so that I can check them off as I work. Not only does this help keep me on track, but it lets me see what I have accomplished so far, and all of my next steps.
2. Celebrate every task well done.
It’s hard to stick to your priorities and create new ones when you feel unproductive, discouraged or overwhelmed. Establish a reward system for yourself that is balanced in both challenging you to get work done, but satisfying when you finish one of your priorities. Typical reward systems often involve both food and getting out of the office, such as, “When I finish the monitoring and evaluation report, I will go get a latte across the street.” Give yourself a reward that you will truly enjoy, and that will give your mind a break for a bit. You deserve it!
3. Try “Tab-less Tuesdays.”
This is a prioritizing tool that I just learned about last week. Every Tuesday, one of my coworkers goes completely “tab-less”- meaning that he only has one tab open on his Internet browser at any given time. This system inherently forces him to judge his tasks based on urgency, because he can literally only focus on one task at a time. If an entire Tuesday seems like too much at first, try a half-day, or two tabs- anything that will keep you mindful and focused on only one thing.
Daniella is a sophomore at Northeastern with a combined major in Human Services and International Affairs, and a minor in Spanish. She is currently on her first co-op working for a youth development nonprofit organization in Cape Town, South Africa. Daniella is passionate about social change, travel, and good food- and can’t wait to see what Africa has to offer her both professionally and personally. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for Daniella’s posts every other Tuesday.