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The Priority TEST: Consider Your Tasks, Energy, Scheduling and Time to Accomplish Tasks

By Samantha Smith

Riddle me this: What’s the biggest asset you own (but technically is not yours), yet many lose it, throw it away, and underestimate it every single day? The answer? TIME. 

Whether in our personal or professional lives, we all are up against a time clock and facing deadlines. It wasn’t until a traumatic health scare a few years ago that I had to address the LIES I told myself about my schedule and identify the habits and “skills” that were negatively impacting me. This process would be bigger than a “to-do” list and would require more than me purchasing another calendar or planner. I needed a new system, a filter, that would help me to create time in my day, get things accomplished, and identify what was truly important. That was the beginning of the Priority TEST. 

As an educator, the word “test” never sounds like a good thing under any circumstance. For me, my test involved a deep dive into my tasks, energy, scheduling and time. These were the areas that had the greatest impact on how I identified what I considered a priority, what I was able to accomplish, and ultimately, what I needed to completely eliminate.


Many people pride themselves on creating massive “to-do” lists. I was one of those people. There was nothing more satisfying than drawing that trail of ink through each line on the paper or putting that check mark in the margin signifying that I had completed something. But did that something actually result in progress? How did that something move me closer to the bigger picture or the bottom line? A list full of tasks did not mean that I was productive and marking them complete didn’t mean that I had accomplished a thing. I had to throw away my lists and ask myself the following questions when it came down to the work I needed to do:

  • What tasks do I need to complete?
  • What tasks can someone else complete for me?
  • What tasks are taking me away from a more critical task?


Whether you work 9 to 5, 7 to 7, sunrise or graveyard shifts, everyone performs their best when their energy levels are highest. For as long as I can remember, I have been an early bird. Getting up first thing in the morning allows me to get the most done. I was the college student who scheduled the 8 a.m. classes. I’m the parent who got my day started before the kids got out of bed. I am also aware that it’s best for me to do heavy “mental” lifting first thing in the morning. Honestly evaluating my energy has helped me to not overbook myself on any given day and to schedule meetings and critical activities (like working on budgets) during times when my energy is at its highest. While most of the standard work schedules can lock us into timeframes that go against the energy that we have, it is still possible to get the most out of your highest energy levels during any given timeframe. When assessing my energy levels and how I approach my work, I had to ask myself the following questions:

  • What time of the day do I have the most energy?
  • What drains my energy?
  • What gives me an energy boost?


I’ve heard it said, “If it’s not on my schedule, it didn’t happen and it won’t happen.” It’s easy to have a schedule, but it’s more important to create a schedule. Are you actively scheduling breaks and rest like you schedule your work? It’s even important to schedule your preparation time when it comes to the tasks you must complete and the events that you have to attend. While the action of scheduling is not perfect or foolproof, it has helped me to be very intentional about my time and how I fill it. To keep scheduling a proactive part of my routine as it relates to my work, I had to ask myself the following questions:

  • What is my daily/weekly/monthly schedule?
  • How do I schedule time to prepare for each day?


Going back to the riddle at the start of the article, I had to admit that I did not have a healthy relationship with or an accurate concept of time. There were long days filled with lots of busy work that ended with me feeling exhausted with little to no results. There were days when outside factors and poor planning led to time mismanagement. I used to think that my gift was the ability to multi-task like I was beating time. Juggling tasks (especially if those tasks didn’t take me closer to the goal) often resulted in having to use more time to go back and fix things. It also meant that nothing had my complete attention and focus. My momma shared with me that she believed that I could do anything, but she also warned me that I should not attempt to do it all. While it’s true that we all have the same 24 hours in a day, how we make the best use of those hours is an entirely different conversation. In order to realistically look at my time, I had to ask myself the following questions:

  • How long does it take me to ...?  
  • How much time do I need to complete …?
  • What is my biggest time thief?

The Priority TEST is how I actively navigate my full life. I not only use it for my business and career activities, but it also works for me when it comes to family and leisure planning. For me, the message became crystal clear while trying to focus on everything at once, and feeling like I had to do it all negatively impacted my health and the quality of my work. Everything is not a priority. There are several important things that must be accomplished at any given time, but there can only be a single priority at a time. The system that I created helped me to identify the priority and intentionally build specific tasks, consider my energy, create a productive schedule and make the best use of my time to achieve the best results.   

SmithSamanthaSamantha Smith has a 20-year career in education and serves Georgia in the office of the Notary Public. Her role as a notary public evolved into the service-based business industry through her company ShelistenS Notary Specialists. Smith extended her service even further to support the Georgia notary community as a co-founder of the Georgia Notary Network Inc. (GaNN). GaNN is a community for notaries public commissioned Georgia to connect, learn and expand business opportunities. She can be reached at [email protected].


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