AWSC: Setting Priorities is Half of the Battle

If I was to be the queen of anything it will have to be distraction. My biggest problem is that I have way more ideas than I can physically handle so learning how to prioritize is an ongoing issue. When I was in university I was able to concentrate on a stack of 10 books and sit without a break typing for 10 hours.

And then social media happened.

But looking back I think the ADD really kicked in when I started working in Advertising. I’m not sure if it was the advertising part or working full time but finally knowing how to execute projects combined with the desire to share and learn life became overwhelming and I did not even notice. While doing research for this column I was reading an article by Tomasz Tunguz titled “Startup Best Practices #5: Effectiveness, Not Productivity” and in it was a “Priority Matrix.”



What a great idea! I thought to myself and immediately proceeded to draw my own version of the illustration to put up above the desk. Whilst coloring in the circles the irony of the situation dawned on me. But I’m not a quitter, so I finished the drawing.

The internet is full of advice on how to stay on point and how to be productive but the important part is that not all of those methods will work for you. We are all different, no snowflake is the same so you can read all you want but it is important to pay attention to what works for you. Here are the things that work for me:

Lists: having a list gives you a visual reminder of what you have to do, sometimes it looks terrifying but I found that crossing off things off that list with a thick marker is more satisfying than it is terrifying to look at it.

Calendars: For two reasons: to avoid double booking and to remind myself of the urgency of a certain task like doing the taxes.

Worst things comes first: Brian Tracy calls this process Eating The Frog, he wrote a book about it. There are 21 different ways to stop procrastinating in this book but my favorite is finishing things you are least excited about first thing in the morning. The logic is basic, once they are done your sky is clear blue for the day.

Web and Social blackouts: Staying on tasks is only possible when there are no distractions and I think we can all agree that the Internet is the biggest distraction of them all. For me the easiest way to black out and lock in is music, different kinds for different tasks, but it gives me a concentrated distraction from everything else in the room and on the web enough to look in one direction.

Draw a finish line: during her panel at Advertising Week last year Arianna Huffington held a panel on work-life balance and one of my favorite take aways from that was realizing our desire for conclusion. Whatever you are doing imagine a finish line, it might not be fully finishing the project, it could just be deciding to work till turn of the hour, even deciding not to finish a task is a conclusion and conclusions help us sleep at night.

Organization: whatever organization method works for you, stacks, flow charts, folders, find it and stick to it. You shouldn’t waste your time looking for things and phone numbers. I have all of those things and can find anything I need in no time, unless it was written on a bar napkin, though some of those are in folders too. The important and challenging thing in this case is putting things in the right place right away but that step eliminates future mess and once it becomes a habit it stops being a pain in the ass.

What helps you stay concentrated?

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