People often talk a good game of working smarter versus harder, yet, quite often their actions tell a different story. Never-ending to-do lists, over-flowing in-baskets, and 10-plus hour workdays are just a few examples.

The first issue to acknowledge is that people in our profession are great at reacting. The two things we often react to first are typically the task that is right in front of us or the one that is easiest to complete. Yet, most of the time, neither is the highest priority. It would be a great day if you were to accomplish just two or three really important things. Anything on top of that gets bonus points.

How do you know what’s really important when all of the priorities appear to be critical?

Just ask yourself these two simple questions:

1. What’s the payoff of doing this task first?

2. What’s the ROI of taking this action?

Knowing the answers will help you to choose which tasks to do first, second, third, and so on. If you tackle your priorities in that order, you may not get everything done, but you’re likely to achieve what’s truly important for that day.

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