How to overcome stress by prioritising what’s important

Nowadays it is easy to feel as if you have the world on your shoulders and that there is a lot to do.

If you are feeling stressed out from everything you have to get done and feel as if your day needs to be 48 hours because: your boss requested that you finish that report at home, you need to walk the dog, your wife needs you to go to the local shop, and you still need to help Sam with his homework then here is a simple solution for you.

A simple solution to help you overcome stress is by prioritizing your busy day into manageable chunks of what needs to be done. The trick is to know out of everything you need to get done what you will priortise and what you won’t.

You need the willpower of drop whatever is not urgent and important in your day and try to delegate some of the other stuff. Here is a quick way to choose:

Get a pen and paper. Or open your computer’s spreadsheet or word processing program.

Make categories: “urgent and important”, “important but not urgent”, “urgent but not important”, and “not important nor urgent”.

Under “important and urgent,” write down what you need to do now that is of high importance. The kind that if you don’t do tonight, you’ll get fired. Make sure that these are really important, that not doing this would have a big consequence.
Next, under “important but not urgent,” write what is of great importance to you but you can do tomorrow or next week.
Under “urgent but not important,” write down what you want to do today, but not really essential to survive another (normal 24-hour) day. Look at whether you can delegate anything under this column to someone else.
Finally, under “not important nor urgent,” write what you honestly could live without.

Now I want you to go through your list and anything under Category 1 (urgent and important), see how much you could squeeze today, with enough breathing space and time to sleep for 6-8 hours. Budget your day around that, and make sure you stick to that schedule. If your day still runs over, this means you need to choose some tasks and schedule them the next day. If it’s not on a deadline anyway, do so.

For Category 2 (important but not urgent), schedule a maximum number of 5 tasks from this list to do daily, with the task’s deadline in mind. Make sure to make some allowance for Murphy’s Law (everything that can go wrong will go wrong), if it’s a really important task.

For Category 3 (urgent but not important), if a task on the list says “send email greetings to sister today,” do it after everything else in Category 1 has been done. Unless it is your sister’s birthday and you don’t want to miss it.

Finally for Category 4 (not important nor urgent): Yes, you can live without checking Facebook (or your blog or whatever) today. So turn off your computer, take a bath, do something that relaxes you and make time for yourself. If you have delegated tasks allow some time to check they have been done.

Simple, right? Now, all you need is the willpower to stick to the list and learn to realise that not checking Facebook today will not result in severe stomach ulcers!

Once you get into a routine you will find that you now know how to streamline your day by priortising what’s important.



2 thoughts on “How to overcome stress by prioritising what’s important

  1. I tried this last week and it worked out for a couple of days but I just got so busy I couldn’t manage to do it after that. Anyway, I thought I would let you know it did help and I will be trying it again today (Sunday) and then see if I can manage one list for the whole week rather than writing it out every day.


  2. I get so totally stressed out by all the things I have to manage that I am not sure if I will be able to sit and write out a list too! I tried to do the urgent and important stuff at least by writing them down but I will get round to using it all. Thanks for the list.


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