At a Glance: Make your lunchtime productive by understanding “urgent” vs. “important” tasks and prioritizing your afternoon to-do list.
Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 53 seconds

Lunchtime is the perfect time to get your act together. Since it’s midway through your day, you know how productive you’ve been so far. You can grade your day at this point: either give yourself a pat on the back and keep trucking along, or stop to reflect and refocus.

Try these seven steps to a power lunch of prioritizing. Bonus: each step only takes five minutes.

Step 1: Rethink “urgent” vs. “important”

“Urgent” items are often things that someone else has asked you to do. "Important” items are usually those that you identify and take you closer to a long-term goal. Draw a line down the middle of your to-do list and organize your items according to these categories.

Step 2: Star items you’ve decided are both urgent and important

Move these tasks up your to-do list for the afternoon. The earlier in the day you face off with the ones that feel harder, the better you’ll be at dealing with them successfully.

Step 3: Identify actions that require you to make a decision

Bump these up on your list so you don’t leave them for late afternoon or evening when you’re more likely to feel tired and rushed or just over it.

Step 4: Pick two or three top priorities based on Steps 1 through 3

Make these your marching orders for the remainder of the day.

Step 5: Assign a time limit to each of your top priorities

Guesstimate how much time each task will take (or how much time you want to spend on it) so you can set realistic expectations for your day. Bonus: This step can give you the courage to say no to low-priority requests.

Step 6: Pick a few “Plan B” items

Figure out which (very) low-priority items you could easily accomplish with less effort and focus — perhaps while you wait for the bus or are stuck on hold with customer service.

Step 7: Delegate low-priority tasks

Delegating is a learned skill. But it’s an incredibly important one to master. Can a coworker or family member just as easily take care of a task? Ask them. Then let them. It’s not about passing the buck. It’s about focusing your energy where it does the most good for you, your schoolwork and those you care about.