“The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Frogs, Rocks, Priority A Tasks - call them what you want. These are the big important things on your to-do list, and they are often the most intimidating to tackle. In earlier posts I wrote about Brian Tracy's Eat that Frog principle and prioritization; Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) wrote about this in his post titled Big Rocks First: Double Your Productivity This Week (based on the concept from Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book).
The basic idea behind Covey's "big rocks" concept is this: think of your day as a bucket. If you fill your bucket with little rocks and tiny grains of sand (emails and reactive tasks), there is no room for the big rocks (high priority or otherwise important projects). It is a lot harder to squeeze in big rocks when your bucket is already full of sand; however, if you deal with the big rocks in first, the smaller rocks and sand will easily fill the remaining cracks and crevices until your bucket is full. I highly recommend reading Babauta's post for a more detailed description.
Brian Tracy says if you "eat your frog" first thing in the morning, you will feel more productive and operate with a clearer conscience for the rest of the day. At work, I identify my three top priorities each day (and each week), then try to make sure I tackle those before getting bogged down in emails and meetings. I am not always successful, but at least identifying the major tasks up front helps me get a handle on what really matters as free time opens up throughout the day.
This can apply to personal productivity too - social media can easily take over every waking minute of the day if you let it. My big rock is my book project, and sadly right now it falls to last in line every weekend. By the time I think about working on my book, my bucket is already full of small rocks and sand. Twitter - which I LOVE, don't get me wrong - can quickly fill my entire day (among other small inconsequential tasks). Instead of working on my book (the great big rock), writing blog posts (my medium-sized rocks) or answering emails (my smaller rocks), I twiddle the day away tweeting. But I do say this with one caveat: weekends are also a time for fun and social events, which I consider big rocks given their enormous contribution to my sanity.
I solve this problem by scheduling time for my big rocks - the earlier in the day the better. If I don't start those tasks first, especially on weekends, I procrastinate until it is too late. What are some ways you make room for your big rocks? I would love to hear your solutions and ideas in the comments.
And for your personal reflection, what are your big rocks this week, both at work and in your personal life? How will you proactively make room for them before you find yourself in the weeds?