Is time an enemy you constantly battle?

Do you struggle with:

* Procrastination?
* Indecision?
* Disorganization?
* Mental Overload?

Do you find you aren't getting done everything promised or are 'always' forgetting to get things done?

A priority list can help tackle and control these chronic problems.

How does a Priority List Help?

The priority list is a simple and effective way to organize your responsibilities and goals on paper. By creating the list on paper you:

* Free yourself from trying to keep everything in memory.
* Have a visual list to help stay on track.
* Get the satisfaction of crossing off tasks when they are complete.

Priority lists are extremely useful when needing to use time more efficiently and/or organize daily responsibilities more effectively.

Creating a Priority List

To create a priority list, you need something to write your list on; a tablet, paper, planner, or journal book all work equally well. Pick something that is easy to carry and use throughout your day. If you are already using a calendar planner feature on your phone or handheld, you might try using the task list to keep track of your priorities.

Begin by dividing your paper into three parts so you can keep three different lists. Mark them "A", "B", and "C' respectively.

Next, consider the things you are to accomplish. This is a list of all those things you are responsible to accomplish and all those things you want to accomplish. For each item that you come up with, decide if it belongs under heading A, B, or C.

A = 'A'bsolutely must be done today list

Use the 'A' list to keep track of things that must happen today. If the task is so big that it runs past today, try breaking it down into smaller chunks so you can capture what parts of the task you plan to accomplish today. If the task does not have to be done today, then move it to the 'B' list.

B = 'B'est done soon list

Use the 'B' list to keep track of important tasks, events, or deadlines that require some action, but do not have to be done today. For example, you need to purchase show tickets before Friday and today is Tuesday. It is a task that needs to be completed if you want to go to the show, but doesn't have to be done today.

C = 'C'an be done anytime list

Use the 'C' list to keep track of things you want to accomplish but that have no pressing time frame. The 'Can be done anytime list' is normally for those things you want to do rather than things you are responsible for doing. For example, a letter you've been wanting to write to a friend or an article you've been wanting to read. The 'C' list is best used for small things, or things you can work on in small chunks of time. Take 'C' list materials with you throughout your day so that if you find small bits of time and cannot work on 'A' or 'B' tasks, you can work on your 'C' list.

Reality Check
Once you have created your list, give it a reality check. Can your 'A' list really be accomplished? If not, regroup and re-prioritize. It doesn't help to set yourself up for failure from the beginning. If it is doable but overwhelming, check the list carefully to see if any 'A' or 'B' list items can be moved down the list or crossed off all together.

Using the Priority List

Use your list throughout the day to schedule and organize your hour to hour activities. The 'A' list items are tackled first since they must be done this day. If the 'A' list is complete, or cannot be tackled at the time, look for items first in your 'B' and then in your 'C' list. If additional tasks come up, consider where they need to be on your list and enter them in. Every time you finish a task, cross it off from your list before tackling the next item.

Updating your Priority List

Updating the priority list day to day works exactly like creating a priority list except you begin by reviewing the tasks not crossed out from the day before. When moving them to today's list decide whether their priority status needs to be changed. The priority list should be updated every day to be effective.

TIPs on Creating your Priority List

* Plan for your wellness. Include time in your priority list for family, friends, fitness, play, down time, and spirit.
* Break down large unwieldy tasks into smaller chunks. Rather than 'clean the house', list out vacuum upstairs, finish dishes, clean the kitchen, dust the family room, etc.'
* Check off items on your list as you complete them. It helps to review your accomplishments.
* If you battle procrastination, plan in rewards (things you want to do) for accomplishing 'B' task items.
* Find a space to create and update your list. Use the same space everyday if you can. It helps cement the habit.
* I personally use a tablet notebook to keep my priority list. I keep my 'C' items on the front page because these are things I want to do. If I keep them on the front page, I find I am more creative in finding good times to do them. I just use the same page every day until it gets full. I use a fresh sheet of paper everyday for my 'A' and 'B' list items. This forces me to copy down my 'B' items again and decide if they still belong in the 'B' list. It also alerts me to any 'A' items that somehow didn't get done and may need immediate attention.

TIPs on Managing your Priority List

* Use a planner to block of time for major activities. Blocking out time helps to manage incoming responsibilities.
* Take time to consider your larger goals in life if you find each day overwhelming even after creating a priority list.
* Add new items as they come in. This habit will free your mind from trying to remember everything you want to accomplish. A secondary benefit to adding in new items as they come in is that it builds a routine of considering how realistic adding new tasks to your plate really are.
* Take 'C' list materials with you throughout your day so that if you find small bits of time waiting to work on 'A' or 'B' tasks, you can work on your 'C' list.

Take Control of Your Time and start using a Priority List Today!
Author's Bio: 

Adam Powell, LSCSW, is a professionally trained clinical social worker and has maintained a mental health practice since 1994. He specializes in helping people make solution focused changes that result in measurable real life changes. He focuses on treating depressive, anxiety, and stress related disorders, anger management training, self-growth, and emotion regulation.

Adam founded and Walk-With Assistant, to blend the strength and versatility of wireless internet access into mobile structure, support, and encouragement for self-help patrons.

For more information contact Adam Powell at or visit