You are constantly busy and checking things off your to-do list, but somehow it seems like nothing is really getting done. At the end of each day, you feel overwhelmed and overworked, but also frustrated by not having accomplished as much as you wanted. 

Sound familiar?

Time management and productivity go hand in hand, but a crucial step that often gets overlooked is prioritizing tasks so you don’t take on too much and wind up stretched thin. Sometimes our plates get so full we forget to pause and figure out what we should actually be focusing on. As Ellen Gregory notes in a recent The Upside article, “Many of us live a life of accommodation rather than evaluation. We agree to every request and every entreaty for our attention without considering if we have the time or desire to comply.”

When someone asks us to do something, our first impulse may be to say yes. But biting off more than we can chew is a surefire way to get burned out. Gregory notes that while it may seem counterintuitive to strive to do less, it can actually boost productivity—as well as improve the quality of the projects you choose to make time for, both at work and in your personal life.  

To help assess where you should devote your valuable time and energy, Gregory recommends a few things: 

Get Back To Your Basics 

Ask yourself a few questions to evaluate what is really important, like:

  • What am I deeply passionate about?
  • What taps my talent?
  • What meets a significant need in the world?

Asking yourself these questions can help you evaluate your workload and determine where you time is best spent and how you can have the most impact. 

Create Your Values Statement 

Take into consideration what you feel are your core values and put them into one statement about what is meaningful to you. For example, if expanding your skillset and learning new things is intrinsically important to you, seek out professional development opportunities like attending webinars or workshops.

Be The Editor of Your Life

As Gregory says, "Goal-setting often misses a key element—uncovering a deeper sense of why." If you can get into the habit of setting goals that are aligned with your sense of purpose, they will be easier to achieve. Many career and life coaches suggest breaking up big goals into small steps, but Gregory suggests an alternative approach, borrowed from Carla Dawes: Work backwards by reflecting on a goal you already achieved and identify the steps you took and how it felt at each phase of the process. Then use those feelings to guide you the next time you have to decide whether or not to embark on a task. 

You can read Gregory's full article here.