Being busy on your to-do lists doesn’t necessarily mean that you achieve much progress
You might be busy all day managing a project, delegating tasks, or completing them and marking them as completed in your to-do apps, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you and your team perform effectively. If your priorities are vague, you might run on the hamster wheel achieving your results too slowly because of micromanagement. So, first of all, you have to set priorities that match your goals or your values to know that what you do leads to the direction you want.
Use a prioritization method that you can transfer to your favorite productivity app
Eisenhower matrix is probably the most well-known prioritization method. First, you draw a 2×2 matrix with Urgency on one axis and Importance on another. Then you put your tasks into the cells according to the Urgency and Importance. Lastly, you choose to do what is Urgent and Important immediately, schedule what is important and not urgent, delegate what is urgent and not important, and eliminate the rest.
There are similar other matrices with Impact and Effort on the axis, or Value and Risk, Value and Complexity, etc.
One problem with those drawn matrices is that it’s inconvenient to put the tasks on the matrix, and you have to copy the tasks from the paper to the computer afterward.
By the time we find 1st things 1st to be the best prioritization tool. It helps you set priorities by looking at your tasks from different perspectives. For example, you can evaluate your tasks from all of these angles: Urgency, Importance, Impact, Low-effort, Low-risk, Low-complexity. You can choose as many or as few criteria as seems necessary. Define what is important to you on your own terms: is it just tasks that make money or reduce costs? Is it what is sustainable? Does it bring value to your communities? Is it green and ecological? To keep your motivation higher, choose not only serious criteria but also those uplifting you, such as Creativity, Fun, and Inspiration.
The good thing about using 1st things 1st for prioritization is that it makes it easy for you to clarify priorities. Moreover, the tasks you enter are already in digital form, allowing you to transfer them to other apps.
Connect 1st things 1st to your favorite productivity app with Zapier
Do you use Trello, Notion, Todoist, TickTick, ClickUp, Microsoft To Do, Basecamp 3, Asana, monday.com, MeisterTask, or some other productivity app to manage tasks? You can connect it with 1st things 1st and get your priorities constantly exported from the prioritizer to the task management app. This can be done using Zapier as the no-code intermediary.
Create a project or a to-do list at your favorite productivity app.
Add a Zap at Zapier, connecting your 1st things 1st project with the project or the to-do list at your favorite productivity app.
Click “Export via Zapier” at 1st things 1st to trigger exporting from 1st things 1st to your task management app.
In a week, you can change the tasks at the prioritizer, clarify priorities, and export them to the task management app by clicking on “Export via Zapier” again.
Less hamster wheel and more directional work leading to the fulfillment of your goals
When you care about productivity, you should search for ways to improve your workflows and systems and try to free yourself from dull, repetitive, or superficial tasks.
To be successful, you want to recognize your most important tasks, work on them, delegate other tasks to your team or an assistant, or leave it to yourself, when you don’t feel energetic and still want to spend your time usefully.
Using this effortless workflow with Zapier, you get the best of prioritization and project management. As a result, complete your mission and achieve your vision faster in your business, organization, or as an individual.
Sometimes I see productive people interchangeably mentioning time blocking and time boxing. You can use these productivity techniques to save your time and energy while working on different daily tasks. But what is the difference, and which one should you use? I will describe them in this article.
Time blocking is deciding time windows of the day for different types of work or projects.
For example, you will spend from 9:00 to 11:00 on developing your most important project, then from 11:30 to 14:00 on communication with clients or customer support, then 14:30 to 16:00 on marketing, and lastly from 16:30 to 17:00 on wrapping up the day and planning for tomorrow.
Using this technique, you will stay within the same context, procrastinate less, and always know what to do at a specific time.
Another productivity technique, time boxing, is to define a time window to work and finish a specific task. For example, I gave myself 1 hour to write this blog post. Time boxing lets you focus better, get into the flow, and put all your energy into the task at hand. Using this technique, you will avoid stubborn perfectionism and be more likely to reach your milestones on time.
Time boxes can take 15 minutes to several months.
Which productivity technique is better for you?
What to choose to become more productive depends on your priorities and goals.
If you want to be organized, have a routine that works well for you, and have long-term projects, use time blocking.
Use time boxing if you have a time-sensitive project with strict deadlines, teamwork with dependencies on each other, or just want to get things done.
You can also combine time blocks and time boxes. Because some work is vital in general, and other work is time-framed and urgent.
When it’s hard to cope with all your work, it’s because you need better goals, self-organization, prioritization, delegation, or just some quality sleep. Here are 10 tips for better productivity if you aim to work at a world-class level.
Manage your goals
Set goals that scare you a little but excite you a lot. Your goals should be bigger than yourself so that you can grow into them. In the end, it’s all about personal growth.
Manage your mindset
Practice a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset. You are not who you are. Instead, you are becoming who you aim to be.
With the fixed mindset, you accept the status quo about yourself. With the growth mindset, you listen to people’s feedback and are willing to learn from your mistakes, acknowledge the weak points, and improve them if you need to.
Manage your habits
Get used to getting out of your comfort zone. Practice doing hard things. When hard things are doable, average things become easy.
Aim to be 1% better every day. Spend at least 15-20 minutes a day for self-improvement.
Focus on your routine. Create, analyze, and improve your systems for daily and weekly work.
Evaluate ideas and initiatives by your success criteria.
Get your priorities calculated and visualized.
Manage your focus
Get rid of all distractions and get into the Flow state of mind. When in that state, you will know what to do, how to do it, and how well you are doing. The work is neither boring nor too challenging, just at the right spot.
Manage your visuals
Clean your desk and organize your office regularly. A mess around you usually leads to a mess in your head.
Use a vision board for inspiration and positive motivation. Visual representation of your goals will spark your imagination and desire to reach them.
Manage your audio
Listen to music that boosts your performance.
Classical – for focus.
Lo-fi – for creativity.
Ambient – to reduce stress.
Anything on repeat – for the flow.
Video-game – for problem-solving.
Cinematic – for motivation.
Working in a noisy environment? Use noise-canceling headphones.
Manage your scents
While working, smell something pleasant:
Rosemary, Vetiver, Coffee help solve problems.
Lemon, Jasmine, Citrus improve performance.
Cinamon, Peppermint, Ginger sustain attention.
Pines, Lemongrass, Lavender recharge.
Manage your time
Schedule work time in blocks. Have different time windows for different projects or similar types of tasks.
Find your prime biological time. When during the day do you have the most energy and are the most productive? Do the most demanding work during those times.
Manage your rest
Have rest days. Don’t work non-stop. Recharge your brain and body for better mental health, raised focus and memory, and a healthier immune system.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you learned something new and want to dive deeper, check the concise productivity tips for high achievers I recently published. There are 120+ tips for goal setting, self-awareness, focussed working environment, habits, priorities, planning, efficiency, teamwork, shortcuts, and self-care.
Photos by Ian Dooley, Allan Mas, Taha Mazandarani, Kristina Snowasp, Andrea Piacquadio, Jacob Colvin, Cottonbro, Marcela Laskoski, Jon Tyson, and Ron Lach.
Some decisions in business can be made based on intuition and emotion. Still, the more risk we have to manage or the bigger our ambition, the more critical it is to make decisions intelligently. When we have to solve a big problem, one of the rational ways is to divide it into small parts and deal with each of them separately. When we have a mattering list of things to prioritize, it’s beneficial to look at it from different perspectives, evaluate it by several criteria while respecting common knowledge and your values, and then combine the results into calculated conclusive priorities.
“1st things 1st” is an innovative online tool to do that easily without struggle nor paralysis by analysis. In this article, you will grasp how you can use it to advance your business. With “1st things 1st,” you evaluate anything by multiple criteria and get your priorities calculated, sorted, and grouped into those “to choose for sure,” those “to consider,” and those “to skip, eliminate, or outsource.” Let’s look at 10 examples, how you can benefit from this tool in your business.
1. Weekly Planning
When you consider prioritizing, you usually think about weekly or daily tasks. Spending 20-30 minutes every Sunday to plan what needs to be done for the next week is an advisable habit to have.
Using “1st things 1st”, before anything else, you would define your task criteria, like:
How urgent is it?
How important is it?
Is it unavoidable?
How manageable is it to accomplish?
How impactful is it?
Is it ethically, socially, ecologically responsible?
Does it make money or reduce costs?
Does it make your clients happy?
Does it bring new customers?
Does it remove bottlenecks in your business processes?
Does it motivate you?
Does it support your company’s goals?
Then you would enter your TODO list and evaluate your tasks by your defined criteria.
The online tool would calculate and sort your tasks by your priorities.
If you are using the Premium account, you can also enter time estimations and budget for each task and see how many tasks you can afford to get done that week.
2. Setting Quantitative Goals
But as you know, doing work without having goals is like traveling without a map: it might quickly use up all your resources, and nothing much will be achieved on the way. Businesses should have goals, and these can also be prioritized. It’s recommended to have SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-phased.
To prioritize goals with “1st things 1st”, you would define your goal criteria, like:
How specific is it?
How measurable is it?
How attainable is it?
How realistic is it?
How time-phased is it?
How ethical is it?
How environmentally sound is it?
How relevant is it for your business?
How challenging is it?
Is it legal?
and so on…
Then you would enter your list of goal candidates and evaluate them.
Your goals will get sorted by your priorities. It is recommended to use no more than 3–7 goals to pursue.
If you are using the Premium account, you can also enter time estimations and budget for each goal and see how many goals you can afford to achieve in a period.
3. Choosing Strategic Outcome-oriented Goals
Your business can focus on one of many strategic business goals. For example, you could aim to get more profit, provide the most value, have the happiest clients, increase recycling, improve a particular skill, or maybe make your workplace the best place to work at. The list could go on. But how could you prioritize it?
You would start prioritizing with “1st things 1st” by defining questions about each of your goals, like these:
How much does it support your mission and vision?
How much does it support your core values?
How much does it optimize your strengths?
How much does it compensate for or eliminate your weaknesses?
How much does it help you plan ahead for deadlines?
How much does it help you allocate job roles?
How much does it help you stay on track for your project goals?
How much does it maximize efficiency?
How much does it help you allocate resources?
How much measurable is it?
Then you would list your goal candidates, for example:
Ensure financial sustainability
Grow sales from new products
Provide the best value for the cost
Provide reliable products or services
Have the most innovative products or services
Differentiate the product
Reduce waste by a certain amount
Reduce energy usage per unit of production
Improve reporting and transparency
After evaluating strategic goals by your criteria, you would see them sorted by how much they match the requirements. And it would be crystal clear what to aim for.
4. Choosing a Brand Name
When you introduce a new product to the market, it’s crucial to choose its name well. How you name a brand has a lot of influence on how people perceive it and buy it.
Using “1st things 1st,” you would begin prioritizing your options for brand names by setting success criteria, for example,
How short is it?
How simple is it?
How much does it suggest a category of products?
How unique is it ?
How alliterative is it (does it rhyme)?
How speakable is it?
How shocking is it ?
How personalized is it?
How easy is it to spell?
Do all shareholders like it?
How well does it sound together with a company name?
Doesn’t it have any negative associations?
Does it have a nice meaning?
Is it ethnically appropriate?
and so on…
Then you would list your brand name candidates and evaluate them by these criteria.
The prioritizer would calculate and show you the priorities sorted out. Then it’s straightforward to pick the best one.
Moreover, similarly, you could choose a name for your company.
5. Choosing Marketing Strategies
When you have a product, one of the puzzles is to decide how to best market it. There could be many marketing tactics and strategies, like updating a website, regularly posting on certain social media accounts, recruiting guest bloggers, creating contests, doing A/B testing of specific widgets, advertising on certain platforms, using affiliate programs, developing introductory videos, writing cold emails, etc. To choose your most optimal marketing strategy, you have to prioritize.
With “1st things 1st”, in the beginning, you would define success criteria for your marketing strategies, something like:
How likely does it aim at your target market?
How likely does it support your niche?
How much does it develop brand awareness?
How much does it build credibility?
How much does it maintain focus?
How accessible is it for the customers?
How measurable is it?
How much can it be analyzed?
How ethical is it?
How innovative is it?
How much value does it provide for its cost?
How skillful are you to use this strategy?
Then you would list the options for marketing strategies, for example:
Do A/B testing.
Refine ad targeting.
Personalize website content.
Create more engaging ad copy.
Add compelling design elements.
Improve website speed.
Develop editorial content for content sharing.
Regularly post on the Facebook page.
Regularly post on the LinkedIn feed.
and so on…
After evaluating individual options by each criterion, you would have an overview of which strategies to choose, which to consider, and which to skip.
6. Choosing Innovative Technologies
Would you agree that to keep up with innovations and keep your customers engaged, you need to upgrade your products and services from time to time? Blockchain, Internet of Things, drones, 5G connection, and other novelties never sleep. So which of the new technologies should be integrated into your business?
With “1st things 1st,” you can figure that out by asking these questions at the beginning:
How relatable is it to our business?
How high impact would it make for our business?
How cost-effective is it?
Then you would list the innovative technologies, like:
Internet of Things
After answering those questions for each technology, you would clearly see what’s worth pursuing.
7. Choosing a Software Solution
When you have to evaluate and choose one of several software products of the same category for your company, “1st things 1st” can help you with that too.
In the beginning, you would list out success criteria for the winning software solution. These criteria could work:
The size of the user community
Then you would list out your 2 or more software solutions that you want to compare and choose from.
After evaluating each option by each criterion, you would immediately see which of the systems to choose.
8. Choosing Productivity Tools
Or, let’s say, you need to choose a productivity tool to improve your and your team’s productivity and get everything better organized. You could prioritize productivity tools by matching the benefits and features as well.
With “1st things 1st”, at first you would define your criteria, maybe something from this list:
Does it get me organized?
Does it improve habits?
Does it increase focus?
Does it save time?
Does it save money?
Is it easy to start?
Is it easy to learn?
Is it worth the price?
Is it effective?
Is it highly recommended?
Does it have all the necessary features?
Is it available on mobile devices?
Is it available on desktop computers?
Does it integrate with other tools I use?
Is it accessible?
Is it collaborative?
Is the user interface intuitive?
Is there an offline mode?
Can it be synced across devices?
Is it affordable?
Is it fast?
Is it mature?
Do you like it?
Does it offer technical support?
Is it made by a reputable company?
You get the idea.
Then you would list out the productivity tools:
1st things 1st
Pen and paper
and so on…
After evaluating each of your options from each perspective, you would have a clear view of what to start using in your daily workflows.
9. Choosing an Office Location
One of the essential material choices to make is choosing an office space to rent. Here you can also look at your choices from different perspectives and let “1st things 1st” help you decide.
At first, you would define your criteria for your best office location. These could be some examples:
Can our clients get there without a hassle?
Can our employees get there easily?
Can we afford to pay a three-month rent deposit on this office right now?
Are all the costs transparent?
Is the office space furnished?
Is the office space not overpriced?
Will there be at least 6.5 m² of floor space per person?
Is there enough room to grow the team?
Is there a dedicated space for meeting with clients?
Will our employees be happy with their social and recreation areas?
Is there 24/7 access?
Does it have a kitchen?
Does it have a shower?
Is the space pet-friendly?
Is the WIFI available?
Are cleaning services available?
and so on…
Then you would list the addresses of office spaces to rent that are interesting to you.
After evaluating each office by each criterion, you would clearly see which of the locations most suit to your company.
10. Choosing a Coworking Space
Similarly, if you work remotely, in a small team, or alone, you might like to choose a coworking space to rent. Without a doubt, you can use “1st things 1st” to prioritize these options too.
These could be some of the features that you would expect from an ideal coworking space:
Are there enough desks for the number of people you need?
Is the internet available?
Is a phone available?
Are mailboxes available?
Are there meeting rooms?
Is there a reception?
Are there phone booths?
Is there a quiet place for meditation?
Is there a bike rack?
Are there showers available?
Is the space accessible for a wheelchair?
Is the kitchen available?
Are there cleaning services?
Is there enough light?
Is there a coffee machine?
Are there fridges for your own food?
Are drinks or snacks available?
The questions could go on…
Then you would list the addresses of coworking spaces to rent that are interesting to you.
After evaluating your options by each of those questions, you would clearly see what to choose.
Whether you prioritize immaterial things like tasks, goals, or strategies, or material things like office spaces, tools, or technologies, you can use “1st things 1st” to make business decisions intelligently by looking at your options from different perspectives. Let your essential choices not be driven just by emotion and spontaneity but instead by common knowledge, your values, and your rationality. Let your decisions be smart. And with “1st things 1st,” you can do that quite easily.