I have always loved the beginning of a new year. And like many of you, this year I am especially ready to begin afresh! I have my new Seeing My Time planner to support my executive-function-challenged brain. I’ve also mapped out the steps for a couple of big 2021 projects for both EFS and my personal life. I am ready to start!
The process I have just described relates to the executive functioning skills of planning and prioritization. While planning is the skill that seems to hang people up the most, prioritization thwarts a lot of my clients. They report, “Marydee, I am great at making detailed plans, but I get overwhelmed when it comes to deciding what is the most important thing to do as I move through my day. It ALL seems important! How do I know what I am supposed to focus on and in what order?”
To help you decide how to prioritize, I want to share what I do. I’ve created six categories and put them in order, starting from the most important. Throughout my day, I start with #1 and go down through the list in order. The bullet points are examples of tasks connected to each priority category.
We tend to push health to our last priority, when in fact it should be our first. Health is the foundation for executive functioning. When you put your health first, you strengthen your ability to do the things that come next – kind of like putting your oxygen mask first before helping others. Here are some examples.
When we look at our list of to-dos, a good way to choose what to do first is to follow the money! Prioritize the things that generate income and improve your financial situation.
Larger, multi-step projects and future deadlines tend to get put off, which results in bringing us the most stress! Tackle them first so that you can break them into smaller chunks and schedule those into your life.
Email can take up much more space in the day than is really productive, so it’s important to guard your time and be intentional in how you manage email.
Finally, there are several habits that, once engrained, will give you a better sense of control and the ability to prioritize better and make good decisions.
Prioritizing your day with these seven categories will help you get the important things accomplished. If you have a brain that is easily distracted, it is critical that you keep your to-do list in sight. I remember one client who told me that she carried her to-do plan with her room to room, constantly checking her list. If it wasn’t on the list, she would stop herself from pursuing the random tasks that popped up in front of her or into her mind.
As we look ahead to 2021, remember that by consciously working on our daily goals, we will have the best year possible.
Little by little… Stay well. Stay safe.
Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.