Ever feel like you are constantly running yet never getting anywhere? Are you always busy and working hard yet seemingly making little to no progress?

You aren’t alone. It’s common to feel like we’re running on a treadmill through life half the time! In many ways, you could argue that we’re busier now than we’ve ever been before.

While advances in technology and gadgets that help streamline our efficiency keep coming out with promises to “make life easier,” the truth is that all of the spare time that we think we’ll have just gets eaten up in new ways. For example, while smartphones allow us to automate a number of tasks that would otherwise require an assistant, the downside is that they also connect us to work and the outside world 24/7. That’s not necessarily a good thing!

With so many things to accomplish and so little time to accomplish them, it’s easy to feel like you are setting yourself up to fail. When this happens, it’s important to take the time time to step back and realize that you won’t be able to accomplish everything. Nor should you try. There are some things that simply won’t happen, and that’s okay. What matters most is prioritizing to ensure that the most important things get done—and that the rest is outsourced, automated, modified, or perhaps even dropped altogether.

If you’d like to stop spinning in endless circles, the first step to claiming back time and getting more of what matters done is to identify your priorities.

It’s quite possible that you naturally find it difficult to identify your priorities because everything seems important to you. While that may be the case, it’s important to acknowledge that not everything is on the same level. Once you identify your main priorities and break them up into manageable pieces, even delegating or perhaps scratching off some tasks that aren’t as important as you might have once thought, you will find yourself able to breathe and start enjoying life once again.

It’s all a matter of identifying those things that matter most, and then taking steps to assign them a place of importance on your to-do list.

Ready? Here’s a look at some tips for ordering your priorities and doing more by doing less!

Create a Plan

First things first, start your day by planning things out. You could also do this the night before if you prefer. Try to brainstorm, thinking of all the things you’d like to accomplish in the day. Prioritize by asking yourself if these tasks are things that will help to further your big-picture goals or are in some way top priorities. If they don’t meet the mark, then don’t stress over them. Your goal is to separate the things that you need to accomplish from the things that matter far less if they don’t get done.

Consider the Time Management Matrix

The Time Management Matrix is a helpful tool that was popularized by Steve Covey, author of the business classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This helpful tool makes it easy to assign a level of importance to your tasks, allowing you to prioritize more effectively. Here’s a look at the quadrants:

Quadrant I—Important/Urgent: These are important tasks that must be done. This includes deadlines that have to be met, medical emergencies, and other hot ticket items that shouldn’t be ignored.

Quadrant II—Important/Not Urgent: These are things that are important to you, but not urgent. They should be done, but are not as time sensitive.

Quadrant III—Not Important/Urgent: These are interruptions or distractions with high urgency; things that are urgent, but not important. These tasks are things that you should, ideally, look to minimize, automate, work as efficiently as possible at, or even delegate if possible.

Quadrant IV—Not Important/Not Urgent: These are things that aren’t urgent and aren’t important. These time-wasters are things that you should eliminate from your workday, or confine to a limited time slot, such as break time or when you’re unwinding after a long day.

Delegate Time

One your list is mapped out and you have determined which tasks actually need your attention and which ones are simply eating into your day, you’ll be in a good place to start mapping out your day. Consider breaking up your day into different time slots and assigning different tasks based on urgency and difficulty.

You’ll also want to make sure you make use of the hours that you tend to be most creative. For instance, maybe you find that you’re most creative or productive in the morning, in which case you’ll want to assign important projects to those hours. Perhaps you could work on communication, such as emails and phone calls, during two half-hour slots in the morning and afternoon. The point is to find something that works for you. By assigning tasks to appropriate timeslots, you’ll be able to work as efficiently as possible and increase your chances of getting things done.

Limit Your Commitments

Finally, it may be time to start limiting your commitments and the things you say yes to. Unless it is something that you’d really like to do, something that will push you forward towards your bigger goals, or something that will enrich you or your family’s lives in some way, then you may want to consider saying no. Far from being a sign of defeat, being able to say no shows that you have your priorities in order, and will help others to plan more efficiently as well.

At the end of the day, we make time for things that matter. Just make sure the things that you’re spending time on really matter. Then look to assign them a place of honor in your schedule—to ensure that they get done.

If you’d like to plan out your day in a way that will allow you to work as efficiently as possible and in a way that’s in line with your big picture goals, choose Day Designer—the strategic planner and daily agenda for living a well-designed life.