I am often asked this question by some clients with lengthy ‘to-do’ lists and by other clients with multiple large scale projects to complete. I do not answer this question directly rather ask my clients to think through the process of prioritizing. They define for me (and in that process clarify to themselves) the importance of the project. Is it time sensitive? What is the ripple effect of this project? Does a colleague’s project hinge on the completion of this project? What will happen if this project is delayed in order to finish another project? Is this project something the client wants to do for himself or is someone else asking this project be done?
Once these questions are answered I ask my client to look at his calendar. I am a firm believer that nothing happens unless it is scheduled. The trick is to be careful not to schedule so many things into a time slot (or into a day) that you become overwhelmed just looking at your daily calendar. Another trick is to group like things. In other words, if my client has several phone calls to make on his ‘to-do’list I suggest he set aside a block of time and make all those calls. Next, look at the errands that are on a ‘to-do’ list. Are there any errands in the same vicinity? Which ones can be easily done one after the other? It saves my clients time to organize their calls and errands this way.
Something else to consider, when my client has a large scale project that is overwhelming the best tip I can give is to break the project down into manageable parts. Look at the pieces of the project separately and decide when to start. Assign a little time each day until that portion of the project is finished. Set a timer for 20 minutes when the timer rings come to a logical stopping point and walk away from the project. Maybe take care of one or two small tasks. Then begin the next part of the project. Do this until the entire project is finished. Believe me, you’ll be finished before you know it because it’s not overwhelming when broken apart into manageable pieces.
If you are asking “What do I do first?” see if answering the questions I pose my clients help you arrive at a starting point.