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‘Feed the Cat First’: How to Prioritize Your To-Do List

Topics: Career Advice

If you started reading this, you’re probably taking a break from dealing with a pretty long to-do list. Whether you have a system in place or not, gaining more control over your list is always a great benefit to your productivity. Here are some basic touchpoints you can use to make sure you’re prioritizing the right things, at the right time.

feed the cat

(Photo Credit: schmollmolch/Flickr)

1. Start With Everything

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This might sound misleading, but you need to actually put all of your to-do’s down on some kind of physical space. Whether you’re going digital or old-school chalkboard, you should see what you’re dealing with before you start ranking items. One tipster notes that even when you get done with all the tasks, you should think about your goals for the tasks as well. List until you can’t list any more. Get it all down like a cathartic purge.

2. It’s All About Value

Every task has its benefit if you get it done. If you think about just basic tasks around the house, does feeding the cat have the same benefit as washing the dishes? Well, if you don’t feed the cat he’ll probably kill you and eat you, but the dishes could wait an hour or two. So feed the cat first. Think about this when you’re looking at your work tasks, too. Does your boss need that report first, or do you need to finish the project that could influence the report first? What are the deadlines for each?

3. Be Honest With Yourself

Think about how long it will take you to do each task as you’re looking over your master list. You can handle half a dozen 30-minute tasks, but not 20 of them, unless you just plan on not sleeping or eating today. And is that realistic? Probably not. Don’t load yourself down with items that you can’t manage in the time allowed. That will just bum you out.

4. You May Need More Lists

Another organizer says that you might need to break your lists into time frames. A daily list helps you tackle projects today (not tomorrow or next month). A weekly list should be items that are recurring maintenance tasks — think checking your finances, planning career moves, tackle big projects, etc. The point is, to break things down to the meals where they can be digested. Daily tasks are too minute to be added to the weekly lists, and weekly tasks are too “chunky” for daily consumption.

Tell Us What You Think

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