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.
What a paradox that to write about productivity for those who always postpone things, I am procrastinating myself while scrolling productivity and business tips on Twitter. The problem is that I shouldn’t focus on productivity to be productive. Instead, I should focus on my goals. And develop effective habits.
The trick is just to start doing what you planned. And so I started, and in this article, I will give you a glimpse of those habits that you should develop to live a more thriving and meaningful life.
Know your WHY’s
Always be aware of why you are doing what you are doing. You will always have very little motivation if your reasons are vague.
Do you work just for survival? Or for financial stability? Or for recognition? Or for impact? Or for self-expression?
Finish what you started
Decide in advance which of your projects are to be finished and which of them are just experiments.
Don’t start working on new projects until the old ones are completed. Learn the habit of getting things done.
Focus on your strengths
Nobody is perfect. Everyone has their flaws. As well as their strengths.
Don’t be sorry about what you can’t do. Identify what you can do best, and make that even better.
Ask others for help when it’s too hard to handle yourself or takes too much time.
Start now with what you have
Perfect conditions will never exist. So you have to start doing what you want or need to do now. Not next month, not next week, not tomorrow. But now.
Start ideating, prioritizing, and planning. Take the first steps. Even if that’s for 20 minutes. The goal is to build productive habits.
Create TODO lists
Have three TODO lists: “Must do,” “Should do,” and “Want to do.” Execute tasks from those lists according to your priorities and energy levels.
Don’t waste your time on “wants” if your “musts” are not done yet.
Break big tasks into smaller chunks
Sometimes your tasks are so huge that you just get overwhelmed and perplexed. Where should you start? How can you plan and estimate?
The trick here is to split the big task into smaller ones and evaluate them separately.
Find your prime biological time
Identify your most productive time of day. Maybe it’s your mornings, maybe afternoons, or maybe nights.
It’s your Power Hours that you should use for the most critical or creative work.
Schedule daily work time in blocks
Split your days into segments and dedicate those segments to different types of work. For example, 13:30 – 15:00 is for writing and replying to emails.
Do only one thing at a time. Don’t switch contexts. You will be more productive, focussing on only one type of work at a time.
Gamify your work
Try not to break a chain by working on something for a regular time daily. For example, building something for 1 hour every day.
Or, if you have some tedious tasks to do, decide on some point system to reward yourself for a certain amount of completed tasks.
Choose peace, not conflict
When communicating, aim to be calm, understanding, and harmonious. Unnecessary conflicts just drain your energy and make you less than productive.
Usually, complicated people are so because of their difficult pasts. So be aware of that, and it will help you be more peaceful.
Have an accountability partner
Struggling on your dreams alone might be difficult. There are a million reasons not to do something you wish to have done. The tiredness after the primary job, wishing to spend time with your friends or family, exciting TV show, or a new series on Netflix.
Don’t make excuses, and have a friend to talk with about your progress. This will make you more inspired and accountable against that person.
Control your devices
Don’t fall into the trap of digital devices. Instead, make smartphones, computers, and TV work for you, not control you.
Switch off most notifications not to distract you. Then, when you need more focus, go to Airplane mode.
Install apps that let you prioritize, plan your time, focus better.
Focus on the 20% most important tasks
The Pareto principle says that by doing just 20% of the most critical tasks, you can achieve 80% of the impact.
Identify which tasks make this 20% of your lists and focus on them.
Work hard on your mindset
Life is as finite and fatal as you define it. You can have a fixed mindset, thinking that you have developed during your childhood and youth, and nothing can be changed afterward.
Or you can be in a growth mindset thinking that you can continuously develop yourself, survive mistakes and learn from them, and work on life-changing projects.
Hold yourself accountable – drive your own life
Don’t wait for someone else to fix your life and make your dreams come true. Be the driver of your own life.
Design your life, take action, and go forward!
There is more to that. If you learned something new and want to dive deeper, check these concise productivity tips I recently published. There are many more tips there (80 to be exact) for your goal setting, motivation, self-awareness, priorities, planning, efficiency, and growth.
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.
“Most people spend more time planning a vacation than they do planning a life.”
― Chet Holmes
When choosing your future, some of your decisions will have long-lasting effects and can lead to lots of success or disappointments, whereas some others will be valid only for a day or two, so why bother about them too much. You could follow the Pareto principle saying that for 80% of the effect, you will need 20% of effort, so you should identify the 20% of what’s long-term and act on it. Let’s explore which decisions are short-term and which are long-term.
Short-term decisions are usually triggered by life events and news and are often made based on emotions. Short-term considerations could be caused by fear of missing out or worry about what other people will think about you. On the other hand, they can be spontaneous, playful, opportunistic, open-minded as well.
Things to do during the day. Unless it’s some life event like a birthday party, wedding, job interview, conference talk, or a show, you usually won’t need lengthy preparation.
What to wear. Why spend too much time thinking about what to wear on a regular day? Instead, just choose something that matches together, fits the weather, suits the occasion, and is comfortable.
What to eat. Choose whatever you like or are used to unless you are on a special diet.
What music to listen to. Listen to what follows your mood or supports the mood you would like to get into.
What presents to give to your friends, family, lovers. Most of the celebrations in life are recurring and relatively frequent. So surprise your people with something spontaneous.
What TV programs or movies to watch. Choose whatever seems essential or entertaining to you.
What galleries or museums to visit. Take opportunities to see whatever interesting exhibitions are open in your city or the city you visit.
As a proverb says, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Long-term decisions are usually based on personal philosophy of life. You use logic and strategies to direct your energy towards growth. Otherwise, your life will likely stagnate or destroy you, and you will have lots of regrets about living conditions.
Where to live. Your living location and conditions will have an effect on your solitude or social life, career, love life, speed and rhythm of daily routine, etc. You can choose to live with your relatives, in a shared apartment with flatmates, in a dormitory, in a rented or owned apartment, house, or villa. And all that will have different outcomes on your future life.
What to study. Your job opportunities, quality of life, and overall happiness in your life will depend on what you learn at University, College, Academy, or Professional School. Will you study something that you are interested in or something that your parents were impressed about? Will you learn something that you are passionate about, something that the market demands, or something in between?
Where to work. Will you work for survival, self-expression, self-fulfillment, or a local or global mission? It all depends on what job you will choose and how it matches your personality. Will, each of your employment, be the basis for your following ones, or will they be just a waste of career experience while searching for your field?
What name to give to your baby. In my life, I’ve met people who hated their first or last names because those names made them difficult to reach the expectations they had from life. Not in all countries, it is possible to change your name. So when choosing a name for your newborn, choose wisely.
What name to give to your company, product, or service. Just as for the baby name, the name of your business can also have a long-lasting effect. Especially if you care not only about the sales but also about your company’s branding and distant future.
What goals to aim for. You can have many passions in life and lots of possible directions to go with your life. But which of those directions is the most optimal for your character, skills, and needs?
What’s your main reason for living. Why were you born on this planet? What’s the purpose of your life? These existential questions are definitely long-term and require deep self-analysis.
“Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for long-term values.”
– Joshua L. Liebman
Some decisions can either be quick and spontaneous or thoughtful and logical depending on what kind of person you are:
What events, conferences, or festivals to go to. Are you going to different gatherings for entertainment or getting information and resources for your projects?
What books to read. Are you reading books to have rest or to get knowledge for your career and self-development?
What podcasts to listen to. Do you listen to podcasts to fill your silence with chitchat or to learn something valuable and inspirational for life?
What country to visit for vacation. Do you choose your traveling spontaneously, or do you have a bucket list for life?
What newspapers or magazines to subscribe to. Do you read whatever is popular or what supports your knowledge for lifestyle or career?
What theatre plays to watch. Do you go to theaters to have a good time or to widen your viewpoint?
If you consider that your time is limited, you will probably try to save it by choosing what goes along with your values and goals. You will visit events, read books, and listen to podcasts useful for your primary activities. On the other hand, if you consider that your time is limitless, you will make decisions based on what feels right at the moment: you will go to events that will seem attractive, shocking, or inspiring. You will read books that entertain you much. You will listen to podcasts where the people seem most charismatic or grounded according to your preferences or where the topics seem interesting to you.
How to solve short or long-term decisions?
You can make short-term decisions using intuition, common sense, or randomness. For example, it doesn’t really matter so much what exactly you gonna wear today at work. What matters more is what clothes you buy to wear for work. It doesn’t really matter what dish you are going to try today. What matters more is what diet you are going to take in your life. It doesn’t matter too much what song you will listen to today at your lunch break. What matters more is in what mood and mindset your playlists are going to put you into.
When it comes to short-term decisions, choose what inspires you or solves a problem.
When it comes to long-term decisions, it’s better to weigh the options before making a decision. And for this reason, the most valuable tool to do that is probably the strategic prioritizer “1st things 1st”. Half an hour of prioritizing with “1st things 1st” can save you from months or even years of frustration and regrets. “1st things 1st” lets you make the most optimal decisions based on your knowledge and intuition.
This is how it goes. First, you start prioritization by defining your success criteria. Second, you list out things to prioritize. Third, you rate each item by each measure. And lastly, the tool calculates your priorities and groups them into something to choose for sure, things to consider, and things to eliminate or skip. It’s as easy as that.
Managers in big corporations like Amazon, Virgin, and Facebook use a particular problem-solving approach. Whenever they face a decision to make, at first, they determine if that decision is a two-way door decision or a one-way door decision. Two-way door decisions are cheap. You can try them, see if they work, and get back to the starting point in case of failure. One-way door decisions are harsh. They are related to significant risks and things that you can’t reverse. And even if you do get back, you will never be at the same point where you started. One-way decisions require thorough considerations and should never be rushed.
Corporations are corporations, but can we use this decision-making approach in our own daily lives? Absolutely. Have a look at several custom-tailored examples of how you could make one-way decisions.
A choice to be made for a life explorer
You like adventures. Going to concerts and festivals is in your blood. You feel best when socializing with friends and making new connections. But there is one small problem: you can’t decide whether to get yourself the first tattoo you want or skip. When you have a tattoo, there is no way back. Or at least not an easy way.
So you have two choices, so far:
Get a tattoo.
Keep your body tattoo-free.
Think about your values?
Would the tattoo reflect your original personality? Or would the tattoo-free body reflect your personality more?
In 30 years, would you regret more about making a tattoo on your body? Or would you regret more that you decided not to make a tattoo at this time?
Do your health conditions support a tattoo? Or would your health conditions support a clean body more?
Would your body look more aesthetic with a tattoo or without it?
Would you feel more fulfilled with a tattoo or without it?
Does your profession allow you to have a tattoo, or unfortunately not?
Will your friends and relatives support you more with a tattoo or without it?
The list could go on.
Evaluate your choices by all those different criteria. Then sum up the advantages of each approach. And here, you will get a clear picture of whether to have a nonvanishing sign on your skin or rather have plain mundane skin.
A choice to be made for an artist
You are creative. Your head is always full of visuals. Your imagination is rich. You always are ahead with new ideas. But here you go: you need to choose a theme for your next collection. If you do it wrong, you might lose a lot of your followers. Your reputation can be ruined. You won’t be accepted in the most significant exhibition houses anymore.
So you have several themes that you like:
Things people carry every day
Street art metamorphosis
Retrospective on children psychology
Art therapy for anger management
Think of how you wanna be remembered in your old age.
Think about each of your ideas, how they will match your expectations about yourself.
Will the collection about “Green living” make you influential? What about impactful? Will you be considered mysterious if you choose this theme? Can it make you financially safe?
When you evaluate each of your themes by each quality you want to achieve, you will have a clear picture of your topic.
A choice to be made for an NGO fundraiser:
As an NGO fundraiser working for an ecological cause, you have to choose a crowdfunding platform which you will communicate on your website, social media, and press releases. Once the news is out, you can’t get them back. But there are so many crowdfunding platforms to choose from. It’s confusing. Which of them is the best? How not get lost in decision-making fatigue?
Should you choose one of the dinosaurs like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or GoFundMe? Should you go with the plain good PayPal? Or should you make use of one of the new platforms like Kindful, Handbid, Sodality.app, Fundly, Qgiv, 360MatchPro, Donately, Classy, CoinUp, Fundraise Up, RaiseDonors, GivingFuel, you name it? How not get lost in paralysis by analysis?
Think of some criteria which are essential for choosing your crowdfunding platform. Something like these would work:
Is your category supported on that platform?
Can you keep what you collected even if you didn’t reach the goal?
Are the transaction fees low?
Is the platform fee low or even none?
Is the monthly fee low or even none?
Are there giving levels with presents for the donations to motivate the donors?
How customizable is your fundraising profile?
Is the platform well known in your country?
Do your research. Answer those questions for each of your platforms. Then sum up the results and see which of the platforms got the most points.
A choice to be made for a project manager
The company you are working at has already gained some traction. Several different potential clients have reached out wanting to get your services. But your resources are limited, and you can only serve 2 or 3 of them at a time. Which of them should you choose? Once you establish a connection, you have to stick with it: the projects and the clients will be listed in your portfolio, web searches, press, etc.
Do you have a vision of an ideal client? Think of some criteria for choosing your best clients. For example, some of them could be:
How much are your goals shared?
How much do you respect that client?
How much do you believe in their brand?
How much do they respect what you do?
How much those clients fit your culture and ways of communication?
How willing are you to work on their project?
How competent is your company to work with this client’s needs?
How much are those clients ready to pay for the quality instead of just costs?
How much is it likely to form long-term collaborations with this client?
Anything more to add?
Evaluate each of those questions for each client with a number from 1 (very unlikely) to 5 (very likely). Then sum up the points for each client and see your winners.
A choice to be made for a frontend engineer
Start with the criteria:
Is that framework trending this year?
Has it been growing on Google trends?
Does it feel familiar?
Is it simple to start with?
Is the documentation clear and extensive?
Do you like the coding principles in that framework?
Are there enough StackOverflow answers about that framework?
Is there a friendly and helping community behind the framework?
Are there enough jobs using this framework in your city, country, or remotely?
Does this framework has enough Github stars?
Add more criteria if you consider something is missing.
Do some googling, read some articles, do what you need, and answer those questions for each of your frameworks. Then sum up your yeses, and here you have the answer!
A choice to be made for a startup founder
You have produced an app and bootstrapped a company, the sales are happening, you have a stable income, but you want to scale it now and need some extra money for the new hires and marketing. Which financing option should you choose – that’s a question.
Should you fund yourself with money from your family?
Should you seek venture capital?
Could an Angel investor help you?
Should you rely on funding-based investment companies?
Would you consider crowdfunding?
Or is crowdinvesting a better option?
Should you get a bank loan?
What about getting a grant?
Are you in Europe and would like to get European Union funding?
Which of those financing options are best for your business?
Let’s start with the criteria. By what criteria could you evaluate your financing options? My hint would be those:
How likely can your business afford this type of financing?
How likely is your time in business appropriate for getting this type of financing?
How likely can you get the required amount from this type of financing?
How likely will your credit history allow this type of financing?
How much is this financing option based on your chosen financing form (debt or equity)?
How likely will the economic period (current growth or recession) allow this type of financing?
How much do you like the lender or investor?
Would you add anything else?
Evaluate each financing option from each perspective with likeliness points from 1 (very unlikely) to 5 (very likely). Then sum up the points for each option, and you’ll get the winners.
If you are tired of Excel sheets and pen and paper are too limiting, I invite you to try and use the strategic prioritizer “1st things 1st“. There you can evaluate things by multiple criteria and get your priorities sorted out.
With the tool, you can evaluate your things with yes or no answers or gradually. Also, you can set different weights for different criteria if some of them are more important to you.
Some decisions we make in our lives are reversible. People call them “two-way door decisions.” But other decisions have a major impact on your life and work, and you cannot easily get back to the point where you started. These are called “one-way door decisions.”
When you face a one-way door decision, you can’t act spontaneously and have to evaluate your choices from all the different perspectives.
To do that efficiently, you can make use of strategic prioritizer “1st things 1st”. See you there!
Somewhat 80 years ago, an American psychologist Abraham Harold Maslow generalized a hierarchy of needs, where each level of needs builds upon the previous one. At the very base, people require a smartphone with the Internet. Just kidding.
The overview of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
At the very base, we all have physiological needs. To stay alive, we need to eat when we have hunger, drink when we are thirsty, have something to wear for the right body temperature, get to the WC when we need it, have a place to sleep, and probably someone to sleep with.
Then we have safety needs, such as a stable source of income, having where to live, being secure outside, at home, and at work, having some rules to follow, being treated well in case of illnesses, and getting help in case of fire or other catastrophes. At this level, we want to have structure and order. We want to know our limits and live stable and predictable lives.
These two steps ensure that a person will survive physically in this world.
Then we have a need to love, be loved, and belong. At this level, life without connections feels empty. We require pets, friends, lovers, family, coworkers, communities. We want to be a part of something bigger. We want to share intimacy and tenderness, affection and belonging.
The next level is the need of esteem. We want to feel strength, self-esteem, and self-love inside of us. At the same time, we want recognition for our achieved mastery and respect for our competence from the outside world. At this level, we demand reputation and prestige.
Then there is the need of self-actualization. At this level, we want to explore, learn more, stimulate our minds. We want to play, grow, bring our best to the world. We need to be in harmony, order, and beauty.
The needs and priorities
At all of those levels we make decisions.
At the bottom of the hierarchy we need to choose what to do to survive physically.
Then we need to make decisions what to do to survive psychologically without becoming robots or zombies.
Then we need to decide what to do to become more than social animals.
Then we need to find a way how to escape the narcissism and arrogance.
Finally we need to make decisions what to do to achieve the full harmony in the world.
To make conscious decisions we have to prioritize some things over others. Let’s explore some of the crucial decisions we make at each level of our needs.
What are you going to eat and drink to survive another month, week, or even this day?
When choosing food and drinks, you would typically ask yourself: Is your food cheap? Does it fill you? Is it tasty?
To get to the upper levels, you should also ask: Is your food healthy? Is your food nutritious? Does it give enough energy to you? Will your friends or family like it? Will you get a compliment for making this dish? Will your cooking skills be honored? Is it made from the best ingredients? Won’t you need to throw half your ingredients away? Is your food supply chain practical, ethical, fairtrade?
What are you going to wear?
When choosing clothes and shoes, you would typically ask yourself: Do they fit the season? Are they clean? Do they look appropriate?
To get to higher levels, you should also ask: Are they comfortable? Do they look good? Will your friends and loved ones like it? Do you feel like yourself in those clothes? Do you look respectful with this outfit? Do you need another piece of jacket this year? Are you living your authentic self with these clothes?
What job should you have?
When choosing a career, you would typically ask yourself: Is it paid enough? Do you understand, and can you do what they ask you there? Is it not too hard? Is it not too boring?
To get to the upper levels, you should also ask: Do you feel accepted by coworkers? Are coworkers friendly? Are you recognized for your work? Does your salary match your skills? Does the work fulfill you? Do you grow enough there? Do you do something meaningful there? Are you living your full potential at your work?
What should you buy today?
When choosing a purchase, you would typically ask yourself: Is it affordable? Do you want it? Do you need it?
To get to the higher levels, you should also ask: Is it long-lasting? Will that improve your comfort? Will that improve your relationships? Is that a brand you like? Will that look prestigious? Will that represent the status you are at? Is it useful? Does it look authentic and original? Is it ethically and ecologically made and brought to your shops?
Love & belonging needs
Which event should you attend?
When choosing events to go to, you would typically ask yourself: Would you go to this event for solidarity? Do you like the content of the event? Do you like the people who will gather there? Is it a chance to make new friends?
To get to the upper levels, you should also ask: do you feel like yourself in these kinds of events? Is it a chance to express yourself and gain recognition there? Is it not too long? Is there a chance to meet people of the same interests and social status? Can you make an impact at such events? Can you feel authentic at such events?
What present to get to your friend?
When choosing a present, you would typically ask yourself: Can you afford it? Will your friend like it? Is it something they don’t have yet?
To get to the higher levels, you should also ask: Will that present match your friend’s social status? Will that gift show your admiration and respect for your friend? Will that present lift your friend? Will that present add up to the authenticity of your friend?
What should be your goals for the upcoming years?
When choosing long-term goals, you would typically ask yourself: Is that goal specific? Can it be measured? Is it attainable for you? Is it realistic to achieve it? Is the timing correct for this goal?
To get to the upper level, you should also ask: Is the goal positively stated? Is it ethical? Is it challenging you? Is it environmentally sound?
What books should you read?
When choosing your next book to read, you would typically ask yourself: Does it bring you knowledge and understanding? Does it improve your skills? Is it widespread or reputable literature? Is it interesting? Is it entertaining?
To get to the higher level, you should also ask: Does it make you a better human being? Does it lift you up spiritually? Does it help to find yourself or going towards your personal mission?
Need for self-actualization
What are the activities that you could call your Ikigai?
When choosing your reason for being, you would typically ask yourself: Do you love doing it? Are you good at it? Can you be paid for it? Does the world need it?
To go even further, you should ask yourself: Is it healthy? Is it ethical? Is it sustainable? Is it ecological? Is it progressive?
What should you do today?
When choosing the next optimal action to do today, you would typically ask yourself: Does that bring you closer to your goals? Does it remove bottlenecks? Does it make money or reduces costs?
To go even further, you should ask yourself: Is it impactful? Is it ethically, socially, and ecologically responsible? Does it bring more health and clarity to your life?
So you have to make decisions and prioritize your choices at all levels of needs. The strategic prioritizer “1st things 1st” was designed to help you not lose yourself among all those choices and dimensions and help you grow as an individual, personality, and spirit. You are invited to use it and make your life more progressive.
One kind of events in life happens spontaneously, unplanned, powered by intuition, and seeming random. Calling a friend, buying a chocolate bar, or sitting down on a bench at a fountain doesn’t require special preparation.
Another kind of events requires making hard decisions because of the urge to gain something huge or the risk of losing something important. In those cases, it’s better to get prepared.
In life, as in nature, everything happens in cycles. Previously I introduced you to the cycle of long-term success as I saw it at that moment. Today, I have refined the mentioned cycle, and now it consists of these 5 steps: research, prioritize, plan, act, reflect.
Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. – Zora Neale Hurston
First of all, before taking a measured action, you would need to find out what your choices are today. You can use a search engine, Wikipedia, references, podcasts, magazines, books, or anything else that provides you with information that you could utilize in your field of focus. Gather information with the intent to incorporate it into your activities.
“If everything is important, then nothing is.” – Patrick M. Lencioni
There are several ways to set priorities for your activities. You can use the flexible and mighty prioritizer “1st things 1st”, decision matrices in Excel sheets, Eisenhower Matrix on a piece of paper, or maybe just selecting the first several priorities intuitively.
If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. – Jim Rohn
Put your most important activities on the schedule. You can use Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, monday.com, any other scheduling app, or even an analog calendar on your wall or in your Moleskine. Try not to have more than 3 activities in a day. Book yourself or your colleagues for the vital work to do.
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. – William James
Now it’s time to do what you have planned. Have a necessary meeting or a zoom call, speak, write, or perform what’s on your list today this hour.
It is only by reflecting on the past that one can create a better future. – Rithy Panh
If you got positive results, celebrate the wins. If you failed, see what you can learn from your mistakes. The next time will be better. Now go back to the first step and do the new research.
If you master the cycle of long-term success, you form a habit of success. Whether you win or lose, you gain experience and become excellent at what you do.
It’s 2020, and a lot of things happening now might seem very chaotic and confusing. Brexit inescapably happened. Man-caused global warming is changing landscapes. Oceans are flooded with plastic. The Covid19 pandemic brings risk to our lives and limits our mobility. Wildfires in Australia and the USA kill live beings. People are still experiencing discrimination and brutality because of skin color. Moreover, you might believe in some conspiracy theories that add to stress and anxiety about the current world situation. But do you want to stay under that stress, or would you instead want to have peace of mind?
First of all, what you can do is think about whether you can change any of that? Is it in your scope of control, or is it outside of your abilities? If you can’t control something, detach yourself from it. It is as it is. You have to adapt to it, but there is no necessity to keep worrying about it day after day.
If adversity happens to you directly and you are affected badly, you have to calm down and focus on what you can do to solve your situation. For example, if you lost a job due to Covid19, you have to find another one. Maybe even get some skills in another area than what you know already. Don’t panic. Clear your mind and surroundings at first.
If you have a chaotic mind, you probably also have a messy home. Start cleaning up your mind by cleaning up your home. Define places for each thing you want to keep. Get rid of or hide the things that bring you bad memories and emotions. It might take hours or days, but you will finally have a system for something you see every day.
Take a problem you want to solve and plan the way how you are going to solve it. Divide the path to the solution into multiple steps that you can take one by one. For example, you were in a restaurant business but decided to learn software development. So you will borrow some money, take online courses on some technologies, create a project for a friend, work on your LinkedIn profile, and apply for a junior position at a chosen IT company.
If you feel down, maybe you are lack of brain fuel. The human brain runs on glucose and needs at least 420 kcals per day to maintain normal function. That’s 42 grapes or cherries, 4 bananas, or 4 big apples a day. It can as well be more or less depending on your body mass and the mental work intensity.
To have a harmonious mind, make sure to spend time with people you care about. But also have some time alone. You need both: a feeling of connection and love; and time for meditation or prayer, journaling, and exercising.
When doing something, try not to multitask. Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking brings you more stress and makes you less productive. If you have several or many things to do in a day, create time blocks for each of those things. For example, you will spend two hours reading and answering emails, one hour for the industry news, and one hour for an online meeting. Try to stick to your plan.
Simplify your life. It is recommendable to choose up to three most important tasks every day and only focus on them. Quality is more important than quantity. When you work a lot, you have a risk of mental burnout. That’s especially often in the tech industry.
Try to get information in your head classified. Either connect the points of knowledge in your head and group them into categories. Or read more about your interests and find some categorizations on Wikipedia or other resources. This gives you more trust in yourself and your opinions.
Get an essential objective in your life. It should be a big aim worth pursuing. Then make a plan for how you will achieve your dreams. And try to progress towards it. Know that failures will happen on the way. But focus on the process and enjoy the ride.
I am an intuitive thinker! I don’t like overanalyzing or changing my mind too often. The first choice that I make usually gets the most power. I trust my gut feeling. But sometimes there are choices to make, which depend on too many variables. I used to be lost in such cases. Some options have some benefits; others have other advantages. How can I make the right choice when I have multiple decisions depending on several criteria? Nowadays, for long-term multidimensional decisions, I use the strategic prioritizer “1st things 1st”. I will describe its formula in this article.
How would you use the “1st things 1st”?
Strategic prioritizer “1st things 1st” lets you bring multidimensional priorities to light. It allows you to make intuitive decisions for each criterion and uses a formula (that I will describe in a moment) to calculate the priorities:
At first, you define your criteria.
Then you list out things to prioritize (for example, activities).
Then you rate each thing by each criterion.
At last, you explore your calculated priorities.
Relative weights of criteria
Each criterion has a relative weight in percentage. By default, these weights are spread evenly. For example, if you have 4 criteria, each of them will have a weight of 25% – the sum of relative weights is always 100%.
Just recently, a possibility to adjust the relative weights was added to the prioritizer. If we look at the project about finding your Ikigai which was the first prioritization example in this blog, you can decide to give the criterion “Am I good at it?” a lower relative weight (10%) than “Do I love doing it?” (30%), “Can I be paid for it?” (30%), and “Does the world need it?” (30%). Because practice makes perfect, and the skills can be gained over time.
Whether you evaluate the things by each criterion with yes/no answers, probabilities, stars, or percentages, behind the scenes they are all saved as numbers between 0.0 and 1.0 and can be represented as percentages between 0% and 100%.
“1st things 1st” uses the weighted average formula to calculate the priorities.
To see how much a thing matches all of your criteria, you would sum all criterion weights multiplied by corresponding evaluations:
A = w1 × e1 + w2 × e2 + w3 × e3 + w4 × e4
No worries, you don’t need to calculate anything yourself. You just do the ratings, and all the computations are delegated to the computer – that’s what computers are for.
Here is an Excel template laying out the calculations:
Our example with Finding Ikigai would look like this:
As you can see from the last column named “Match”, programming, writing, teaching, and driving a car would be among my top priorities. Even when I can’t drive. Yet.
When making decisions, sometimes you can trust your intuition and the first thought that comes to your mind. And sometimes, the decision has to be analyzed and calculated. Why not leave those calculations to the computer? “1st things 1st” does that for you very well.