As a busy business owner or manager, it can feel like everything is demanding your attention. Your customers need your attention. Your employees and contractors need your attention. And, all the other tasks on your plate seem to be demanding your attention. If this is what work feels like to you then you likely feel like everything is a priority, which is nothing short of exhausting. How are you supposed to prioritize when everything is important?

You’re putting in long hours and feel like you just can’t get ahead no matter how hard you try. As soon as you cross one thing off, there are two more things added to the list. How are you supposed to keep up with it all?

The key is learning how to identify what the true priorities are even when all the work feels important. You only have so much time and energy to give in a day. If you feel like you’re constantly coming up short, then it’s time to make a change.

Start by identifying your goals

It’s impossible to truly know what tasks are the most important if you don’t know what goals you’re working toward. Should you be in team meetings the majority of your day? Should you be focused on redesigning your website? Or should you spend time re-evaluating your vendors and pricing?

The answers to those questions should be driven by your goals. If you haven’t taken time to set goals (and more importantly SMART goals), you’re probably going to feel somewhat lost as you try to decide where your time needs to be spent. You can easily spend long hours being busy and still feeling like you didn’t do anything to move the needle forward in your business.

Think about the overall vision for where you want the company to be in the future and then create goals that will move in that direction.

Break the big goals into smaller goals

Big goals can feel overwhelming, even when they’re SMART goals. That’s why you want to continue to break them down into smaller, more manageable goals. For example, if you set annual goals, you can break them down into quarterly goals, then monthly goals, and weekly goals. When you do this, your weekly goals should be what dictate the tasks that you focus your time on each day.

By using this approach, you’re able to see what tasks on your plate are connected to moving you towards achieving your goals. When things come up that aren’t related to your goals, it becomes easier to prioritize what needs to be done.

If you spend all your time on tasks that are unrelated to your goals then you shouldn’t be surprised when you don’t move the needle forward. You might be busy, but you’re not being productive in the right areas.

Be realistic with your time

Another common problem business owners run into with prioritizing tasks is being unrealistic about how long each task takes. Can you realistically get through 20 different tasks in your 8-hour workday? Most likely not.

When you aren’t sure how long things take you, it’s easy to think you can take on more than you can every day. Then when the first task takes longer than expected, it derails the rest of your day.

One of the best places to start is simply tracking your time spent on tasks. You can use an app or keep a running tally on a pad of paper at your workspace. If you do this for several days, you’ll start to get a clear understanding of the time it takes to complete the tasks you do on a regular basis. Going forward, this information will help you to properly plan your day instead of filling your to-do list with what you hope you can accomplish.

What do you do with the things that aren’t working toward your goal?

We’re always going to have tasks that need our attention that aren’t directly related to the goals we’re working on. Tha’ts life. However, we want to minimize the number of these tasks we do.

When it comes to tasks like checking email, limit the time that you dedicate to this activity. Don’t keep your inbox open all day. If you need to have it open to refer back to emails, use technology that allows you to “pause” incoming emails. This helps eliminate the email distraction.

Are there are other tasks that need to be done but don’t need to be done by you? Work toward delegating them to others. If you don’t have employees yet, it might be time to make your first hire. If you’re not ready to bring on employees, you may want to find a freelance contractor or Virutal Assistant to work with.

Use a tool to keep you on task

The SPEARity app is designed to help you work on the most important things so you can reach your goals. It walks you through setting your goals and breaking them down until you have a list of tasks for your day that will help you move the needle forward.

In addition, built into the app is a process to help you reflect on and evaluate how your day went. This allows you to identify areas that need to be improved or things that need to be changed so you don’t keep doing the same things that aren’t working over and over again.

If you want to see how the SPEARity app can help you prioritize your day to get the important things done, schedule a demo today.