The Power of Prioritization

College life comes with a great deal of stress. Juggling homework assignments, jobs, extracurriculars and personal life can feel overwhelming at times. I often scramble to recall information as it’s needed throughout the day only to collapse onto my couch at night trying to figure out what I still need to get done before I fall asleep. This practice of mindlessly collecting and trying to regurgitate the information in my brain left me exhausted, frustrated and somewhat inefficient.

Research has consistently suggested that our brains are only able to handle a few tasks at once, usually ranging from four to seven semi-complex tasks. (this shouldn't come as a surprise if you’ve ever been to a daylong training or orientation only to recall a few things the next day.) 

But the number of tasks isn't the only challenge I’ve faced when it comes to daily efficiency. I often pick the tasks I want to do before completing the tasks that have to be done. Additionally, research has proven time and time again the importance of writing things down, particularly the goals you want to take action on. With these challenges and plans of action in mind, I decided to try a new method of organization this past week that combined both writing and prioritizing goals.

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First off, I made a commitment to wake up a little earlier than usual, giving myself an extra 15 to 20 minutes to brainstorm and jot down individual tasks I needed to accomplish. I then ranked them by urgency, assigning them a number one or two if they had to get done that day. Although simple, this daily commitment of prioritizing motivated me to get out of bed and gave me a sense of organization I didn’t know I needed. Here’s one example of my daily priorities list:

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Interestingly, the task or tasks I usually procrastinate moved to the top of my to-do list for the day, giving them a number one priority. This forced me to address the issue head on rather than avoid it. By confronting these tasks at the beginning of my day I experienced a stronger sense of control and ultimately had less stress over it throughout my day.

From day to day these tasks will vary. Some days were almost completely school related tasks. Other days I had "life things" such as grocery shopping or making a neighbor dinner at the top of my list. Regardless of the tasks at hand, I found that I had more time in my day to what I love without the guilt of procrastination looming over my head. 

In just five days of consistently implementing this method, I noticed a positive change in my behavior and thought patterns. In my experience, taking just a few minutes at the beginning of the day to consciously address the needs of the day by writing them down, prioritizing them, and following through reduced my stress, increased my overall efficiency, and gave me a sense of satisfaction and achievement at the end of the day. 

Image 2 is author's own.