‘Prioritise Your Tasks and Habits’ Sounds Great – But How do You do It? Think Impact and Influence.
Change in work and life, as we’ve discussed before, is often construed as something requiring grit, endurance, effort, and endless self-restraint. We’re taught to see it like an endless fight with yourself and the world around.
And it is hard, sure. That’s why there is so much talk about the challenges of change. And that’s why people like me – in my own consultancy work – can do what we do for a living. Because many people need a helping hand to make change happen.
Yet, in my experience, people fail at implementing change for a simple reason – a reason I like to call the New Year’s Resolution Syndrome. Bang goes the starting gun and people try to sprint into their new life. They tend to very shortly get lost, tired, or overwhelmed. Just as businesses that grow too fast are usually the ones to fail, your moving too quickly is not a recipe for long-term success.
Attempts to change fail because people attempt to implement lots of different changes all at once.
Or else, they attempt to integrate into their lives lots of new habits right away and in no particular order. That’s the error. Because there’s a method to bringing new habits into your routine.
That method relies on knowing how to prioritise your tasks and habits. And knowing how to prioritise your tasks and habits effectively can only be done with two terms: impact and its influence.
Impact and Influence: How to Prioritise Your Tasks and Habits.
In the 5is, part of the HOW Skill Set framework I created to help my clients make change happen in their lives, the third stage is Identify. In this stage, you are following the guidance of your Intention to plan the implementation of any required changes.
Without a plan, you’re inevitably going to get lost. But without a clear sense of your intention – you can get very busy working on the wrong things.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will lead you there”
Armed with your intention, and having identified the necessary tasks in the Insight stage, Identify requires you to prioritise.
But knowing how to prioritise your tasks and habits is not a question merely of doing one at a time. It requires thought. Which task are you going to do first and why? Why is this habit more important than another?
This is where impact and influence come in.
Let’s start with impact.
When we think about which tasks or habits are highly impactful, we’re talking about those that have an almost immediate effect on your life. They have a quick positive feedback loop: they make you ‘feel’ the positive change quickly, increasing that sense of reward. Impact is about profound and immediate encouragement – both for you and those around you.
In terms of habit, the reward reinforces the habit by associating the habitual behaviour with pleasure. This is what impact is all about: the immediate kick that will encourage you to do it again. In terms of tasks more generally, it will get you going towards the next one.
Highly influential habits or tasks, on the other hand, are those that have a high potential influence over subsequent ones, the habits you are looking to introduce in the hours or weeks following or the tasks that are coming next. These cultivate the environment to help you establish further positive habits – and keep going through the next tasks.
Whilst you might not feel the effect of these tasks and habits immediately, they are setting you up for the long term. They’ll make your future changes stick.
Visualising Impact and Influence.
Let’s take an example. Say you’re considering getting fit – and want to plan a habit routine in which exercise plays a part. You change one little thing in your life: get yourself up early every morning for half an hour’s walk before breakfast. That’s one thing. One little thing.
The Impact? Immediately, you feel good. Simply being outside improves your mood, it resets your focus, it makes you more creative and thoughtful. You consolidate a healthy sleep cycle – and the exercise improves your metabolism, mindset, health.
And the Influence? You’ve just then created a structure in your day. It encourages a new habit of going to bed earlier – rather than staying up all night with emails. Your mood, so improved with sleep, is energetic, enthusiastic, motivated. Of course, exercise, sleep and happiness all contribute to a more focused and productive you at work.
So many rewards! And all just from a half-hour walk. Soon, this new habit will itself become unthought, become normal. You will identify with the behaviour, you are the person that goes for a walk every morning. It’s just who you are.
Impact and Influence in Business.
Or, one of my favourites that I suggest to clients all the time.
Get into the habit of not checking your emails before ten a.m. This is a hugely empowering habit to instil – both highly impactful and hugely influential.
The Impact: You’ve come into the office and got straight down to work. You’re immediately focused on executing tasks that need doing. You get those quick wins in at the start of the day that spur you on to complete more. You feel in control, relaxed which causes positive hormones such as dopamine and endorphines to be released and resulting in you feeling a sense of achievement, more confident, focused and energised – immediate rewards coursing through your veins.
The Influence: You’re taking back control of your day, your time, your tasks. You’re determining and reinforcing boundaries, gaining control of where your attention goes. You’re opening up space later in the day to do more, to build more habits. (Remember, by the way, that acting on the immediate demands of your colleagues is a bad habit in itself.)
Now, get planning. What are going be the habits that have the biggest impact and influence for you? Write them down.
Now you know how to prioritise your tasks and habits, you only need to implement just a few each week. Making change happen doesn’t have to be hard – you might have just been doing it wrong!
Check out how you can use impact and influence to achieve better work-life balance!
How to Prioritise Effectively? Action Points.
- Start with your intention. Where are you heading and why?
- List the key tasks you need to complete and break them down to their smallest executable action.
- Of your tasks, score them by which are the most impactful and which the most influential?