There is a feeling some people call “being overwhelmed.” It makes them unsure about where to start because there are a trillion things requiring their attention. Others call it “being off-balance.” Something feels just not right. And then there are those who keep repeating what nobody can hear anymore because everyone is feeling the same thing: “I am so stressed. I don’t even know where to start.”
Do You Know Your Priorities?
Whatever you call it, the feeling is prominent these days, and it is often a sign that you are not living by your priorities. Maybe you live on autopilot and take care ofwhatever others require you to do, what you are supposed to do, or what your family or boss requested that you do. Isn’t it time to get your balance back, to be your own master and complete those to-dos that bring you closer to your desired goals? To do this, it is critical that you define which priorities you have for your life, specifically right now, for this exact moment in your life.
Between Stimulus And Response, You Have The Freedom To Choose
Maybe you’ve heard of Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazis concentration camp but survived and wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. It was during these agonizing days when Frankl became aware of what would later be quoted a million times: “Between stimulus and response, you have the freedom to choose.” Frankl realized that whatever happened to him (the stimulus), he himself (and nobody else) had the freedom to choose his response to the stimulus.
Saying No To Everything — Almost Everything
Transferring this idea to our daily struggle means that at any given moment, you have a chance to choose. Say yes or no; do or don’t; go left or right. Most importantly, once you have identified your vision and your key priorities in life, you should say no to everything that distracts you or takes away time from your priorities.
Assuming you have a clear vision of where you are going with your life, and you have defined your goals, then you can judge which activities help you go in the right direction. In assessing whether something presented to you is a priority and should get your time and attention, ask yourself only two simple questions:
1. Is this really my subject, my problem, or somebody else’s? This question should help you identify who has the ownership of this topic and if that subject is important for you or has an impact on your bigger goals.
2. Will there be consequences that affect my goals if I choose not to respond? This question should help you understand how to prioritize this task, as well as lead you to consider what action is required.
If one or both of these questions is answered with no, there is no required action from you, so either disregard the task/topic presented to you or put it on your “maybe of interest someday” list. Answering both of these questions with yes means that you need to deal with the subject, allowing for your time and attention. Finally, consider the three-minute-rule. If the required action derived from this request takes less than three minutes of your time, and you can do it right away — get it done. If the task needs more than three minutes, delegate it and make sure it shows up on your “waiting for” list.
You can also put a date on the task to indicate when you will schedule time in your calendar to work on it. I learned from true productivity masters to schedule meetings for less time than you might otherwise. For example, 15 minutes instead of the commonly used 30 minutes. Without question, this allows you to fit many more potential discussions or meetings into your calendar and helps participants focus on what really matters. Last but not least, you could place this task that takes more than three minutes on your “next action items” list. Maybe you structure this list by topic or project. This “next action items” list is your No. 1 go-to place when it comes to defining your day or your week.
This article was first published with Forbes®.com.