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How to Figure out what’s Important When You Have too Much to Do

Do you have a long to-do list that rolls over from one day to the next? Is your calendar suffering from a lack of white space? If you are overwhelmed, or over-committed, it might be a challenge to figure out what’s important.

When you measure who you are, by what you accomplish, everything feels important. The problem is … when everything is important, nothing is.

1. You are most important.
If you are compromising your well-being by skimping on sleep, nourishing food, and other critical self-care components, you can’t treat anything or anyone else how they deserve. When you put yourself first, you will have more clarity when prioritizing everything else. As Greg McKeown from Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less says,“Protect the Asset” (You are the asset.)

2. Eliminate the non-essential.
There are things on your list that don’t need to get done. You might be holding on from a sense of commitment, or for the oxytocin boost of crossing off a finished item, but letting it go makes room to for what is actually important to you. You don’t have to do it all.

3. Be Discerning.
Instead of reviewing your list of 30 things and moving them around everyday, identify 2 or 3 things to do first. If you are feeling brave, make it one thing. Ask this question from The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, “What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

4. Miss out.
If there is something on your list that will take a while to complete, give it your attention and stop adding to your list of things to do. Sometimes, instead of saying no, we say, “sure, as soon as this is finished,” but the other stuff is distracting and by the time we get to it, we’ve often lost interest. Say no. Replace your F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out) with J.O.M.O (joy of missing out) knowing you are able to devote more time and focused attention to what matters most.

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5. Keep coming back to less.
If you want to produce higher quality work, do less. When your list of things to do builds up, come back to less. When someone demands more of you, come back to less. When you think you are falling behind or missing out, come back to less. Overwhelmed? Less. Under-inspired? Less. Distracted? Less.

6. Restrain and reward.
You might be using your favorite treats as ways to procrastinate. Put your favorite apps, games, movies, desserts, and other treats on hold until you complete something important. Continue to engage in a powerful self-care routine, but save the treats for celebrating your accomplishment.

7. Ask for help.
If you want to build a life or business full of meaning, build a team. Ask for help. Admit weakness. Trust people to help. Let them lift you up, and then lift them right back.

8. Trust that you know what matters.
It might not be crystal clear, but you know what matters. Your outside may not reflect what you know on the inside, but you do know. The most important thing right now may be making space and time to listen to what you know. How can you trust your soul/heart/intuition when you don’t have the space/time/attention to listen? Take it one step at a time. Let go. Listen. Trust.

What’s the most important thing you can do today?

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