Prioritization: How Productive People Get Things Done

My wife and I recently traveled to Zion National Park where I witnessed a cairn (pictured above) on the trail. Cairns are used as trail markers around the globe to help you realize that you are on the right path. In my life, I have found that the cairn of prioritization has helped me become more productive in the most important areas of my life.

If we do not have such “cairns” in our life, we will lose sight of how to prioritize and be productive. This article addresses why I believe productive people prioritize and how they do so.

Why do productive people ruthlessly prioritize?

I have found that the more productive I become, the more opportunities I have. The reason I prioritize is simple: I have to prioritize because there are far too many things I can be doing and only a few things I should be doing.

If I do only a few things, I can do those things well and be very productive in those things.

If I attempt to do too many things, I burn myself out, which results in not being productive in anything. I really like how Erin Falconer puts it in her book, “How To Get Sh*t Done, “…Women need to stop doing everything so they can achieve anything.”

What areas do you prioritize? My Personal 5 F’s of Prioritization

When I worked at Google many years ago, the company had an interesting motto, “Eliminate, Automate or Outsource”. The reasoning behind that is that we should always be working on the right things. Do you have to do it? If not, eliminate it. Can we automate it? If no, then outsource it. In a nutshell, this is ruthless prioritization to make sure that each Googler is working on the highest priorities at hand. Erin Falconer states it in a more fun way in her book where she helps the reader zero in on three areas of your life, and, “off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

I use the overarching 5 F’s approach for the different areas I prioritize in my life:

  1. Faith (belief system)
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Function (work, job)
  5. Free Time

I have seen that many folks have some of these intertwined (I use my free time to spend with friends or I work with friends in my function). I actually have found that the more I intertwine my “F’s” that the more meaningful that these activities become.

How do I keep these in check? I proactively think about how I am utilizing my time against these metrics and make sure that I check-in with myself if these are out of line (i.e. my function is taking too much time away from my family).

This article focuses on prioritizing your time, but I’d love to address how to talents and energy, and how you spend your money can affect your productivity at a later date.

How can you prioritize?

Make a list of the different areas above by function and perform an audit of your time for the past week. Which function have you spent the most time doing during awake hours? Is that the prioritization that you’d like to see?

One thing in conclusion: What’s interesting is that what I’ve seen in my life is that when the prioritization of my key areas are right, I am also a much more productive person, and I attribute that to my priorities being in order.

I’d love to hear what you think. Which of the 5 F’s do you want to prioritize? Which are you currently prioritizing? Do you agree that priorities and productivity are friends? Why or why not?

Ben Tejes is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ascend Finance, a platform to help people achieve self improvement in the area of personal finance. He is a writer for the Ascend Blog where he writes on topics such as debt settlement, bankruptcy and debt consolidation to help people get out of debt and experience financial freedom.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books–written by men–barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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