What is the first thing you think about when you arrive at work every day? When I sit in my big, comfy chair, the primary thing I ask myself is, “what am I thinking about RIGHT now?” Your answer to that question can reveal a lot about how you prioritize. When I have an unfocused day, I have realized that it’s usually because I never took the time to take my thoughts captive and direct them accordingly.
There are few nuances to prioritization because everybody functions and values things differently. For instance, my brain works best in the morning. It is most advantageous to me to prioritize creative and content-producing activities first thing in the morning because that’s when my energy is flowing and my mind is free. However, an intelligent night person would probably prioritize their creative time differently.
Regardless of our differences, I think that there is a bit of a science to how we can effectively prioritize. Here is my four-step formula for how I structure my workdays to help you have a more meaningful day on the job.
1. Remember Your Why
`Why do you do what you do? What are your current goals, and what is your purpose for achieving them? To find any meaning in your work, you have to have some sort of answer to those questions. Mentally grab ahold of your why, and filter your activities through that lens throughout the day. Ask yourself, “Is this advancing my purpose?” If it’s not, consider if there’s a way you can alter your trajectory to make it fit into the template of why you’re actually at work in the first place.
My primary purpose is to advance the Kingdom of Heaven in the earth. I’m lucky as the founder of WealthBuilders and the CEO of Charis Bible College because the leadership and teams I get to work with agree with me on that mission. Literally, the vision at Charis is to transform lives, train leaders, and change the world. That’s a pretty big why! Still, when I take the time each morning to realize that God has put me in my position for such a time as this, I get invaluable perspective. The gratitude I feel anchors me throughout the rudimentary and frustrating tasks of the day (well, most of the time.)
2. Focus on the Majors
After you reflect on you why you’ll undoubtedly have some literal tasks to accomplish. When I start my to-do list for the day, I often have to ask myself, “Billy, are you focusing on the majors or majoring in the minors?” You have to have a system for triaging your work. Sometimes, there are bigger issues that cast ripple effects on multiple other areas. Focus on those first. For instance, when I first started at Charis there was a major issue with one of the departments that was affecting the financials of everything else. If I didn’t prioritize a significant portion of my time to that department each day, all of my other work would be inefficient, too.
Sometimes, the most important work isn’t the most fun. That’s even more of a reason to get it out of the way first. Mark Twain said it like this “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” That’s code for get it over with so you don’t have to think about it anymore!
It is most beneficial to make your daily schedule ahead of time before leaving work on the previous day. However, when you make that schedule, the same principle stands: focus on the biggest tasks first.
3. Think about the People
People are your most important resource. If you are in any leadership position, devote a portion of your day to meet with your team. If you have a large team, create a schedule of when to visit different departments. As a CEO, I call this working in my downline. It’s nice to get out of my head and evaluate what our college needs right from the source. The 600+ employees that work at Charis see parts of the organization in a more detailed and completely different way than I do.
If you aren’t necessarily in a leadership-type role, this step could entail focusing on the tasks that directly affect other people on your team or the customer base you’re serving. Prioritize tasks that will elevate and bless others, or take the time to learn from someone who has a different perspective than you.
4. Get to the Details
If you have time at the end of the day, then you can get to the details. This might look like answering non-priority emails, editing the work you did earlier in the day, or beginning on additional projects. There are several days where I admittedly don’t reach this step. That’s okay! Regardless of what it looks like in your role, you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff until you’ve conquered what’s really important.