One of the best ways I know to get something done that really matters in your business is to give it the prioritization it deserves.

But in order to do that effectively, you need to understand the role that “something” plays in your business and/or life. You may have come across this grid before, but it’s always a good wake-up call:

Prioritization Table

Organizing what you do every day into these four categories takes less than 30 minutes to do, but it will completely change the way you prioritize your time. Depending on what your work or lifestyle is like, your grid will have different items in each category than mine does—fill it in for yourself, and then evaluate whether you’re spending your time effectively. Usually people address what is urgent and not important (email) over what is important but not urgent (long-term planning)—is that true for you?

Let’s say you’ve been meaning to develop a marketing plan, but you just haven’t found the time. That to-do probably falls into the “Important, Not Urgent” category. There are two easy and very effective ways to change the way you’re prioritizing your time, so that instead of dealing with a broken printer, you channel your energy into more important things like developing that marketing plan.

1. Schedule a “meeting” to work on your important but not urgent project.

Think about  treating this new activity like you would an important client or prospect and schedule it in your Outlook (or Google, or whatever you use) calendar. If you had a meeting in your calendar with a client, or potential client, you wouldn’t cancel it to check emails or answer a call. So start making appointments for your project—real appointments that you keep and don’t allow yourself to become distracted from.

I put “time to write” in my Outlook Calendar as a 1-hour appointment two to three times a week and don’t cancel the appointments and don’t divert to phone or email… just as I would with a client. Breaking it down into multiple, manageable chunks over the week, then monthly and quarterly appointments as well, makes it easier to stick to the plan and stay productive.

Making one big appointment (i.e., many hours long) in the week is dangerous because if you do have to cancel it (for something that falls in the “Important, Urgent” category) you have now lost an entire week’s worth of productivity, and anyway, long hours for anything new can be daunting, and can make working on your new habit unproductive and “un-fun”.

2. Hold yourself accountable by hiring a consultant or by announcing your project to your company or social media followers.

Stop trying to go it alone! Accountability breeds urgency, so consider hiring a coach and/or announcing to your followers and friends your intended new path.

You can also work with another like-minded peer and form an accountability partner model. This method is highly effective as long as the two partners involved state the ground rules ahead of time. In other words, look at how often the two of you want to communicate, what level of information you feel you should be sharing. What are the consequences are if the deadlines are not reached? What are the rewards are if they consistently are?

Here are few habits I intend to change to help me transform both myself and my marketing through more writing:

  1. I personally enjoy writing on the weekend AWAY from the computer so I will commit to one hour of writing on the weekend
  2. Once a quarter I will get away to the mountains and commit to 3 hours of writing while away.
  3. I will start a “notes” file on my smartphone and tablet, and jot down thoughts/ideas when they come to me.  I have a lot of ideas, so if by the end of the week I don’t have at least 3–5 jotted down, I haven’t been doing this!

Feel free to hold me accountable.

So what new habit do you want to integrate this quarter?

AvatarCidnee Stephen

Cidnee Stephen is the owner of Strategies for Success, a marketing company that focuses on the needs of budget minded small businesses and professional services. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.