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How to Prioritize Your To-Do List and Make Massive Progress on Your Big Project

How to prioritize for better productivity

The best way I can think of to talk about how to prioritize your project to-do list is to give you a little peek-behind-the-scenes at my life.

It’s 5:30 pm on a weekday and I’m still tapping away at my keyboard — desperately trying to wrap up the day’s work.


Well, partly it’s because I’ve been at it since early in the morning and I’m ready for a break.

But mostly it’s because I’m getting incredibly hungry. “Hangry” is the technical term. 😉

Hangry [adjective]: a horrific combination of hunger and anger, resulting in a grouchy, unproductive mood.

When I find myself in a hangry state, I turn to my go-to dinner — pasta.

Fortunately, my husband loves pasta. (I do most of the cooking in our house. I find it therapeutic — except when I’m hangry, that is.)

Today’s article is about tackling your to-do list even when it has you in a terrible mood.

Believe it or not, there are lessons about how to prioritize your project to-do list which you can learn from a plate of spaghetti!

Let’s dive in … and if you want to make your BIG project easier to tackle, be sure to grab my FREE Instant Project Prioritizer.

Instant Project Prioritizer

Dinner Solution #1: No time, so no fuss

When the “hangries” threaten to derail our evening, I’m thinking about how to go from hunger to fullness as quickly as possible.

That means cooking a “minimum viable dinner.” What does that look like?

A bowl of pasta sits on top of a wooden table

A minimum viable dinner looks like pasta with — maybe — a little basil and olive oil tossed on top.

No fuss and total “hangry-to-full” time of about ten minutes.

Dinner Solution #2: Dress up the basics

When I have a little more time available, I’ll take the basic pasta and dress it up with a few extras.

A bowl of food sitting on top of a wooden table, with basil

I’ll add a red sauce, chop up some vegetables and toss them in, then sprinkle it with cheese.

It’s a step up from our “minimum viable dinner,” and it’s more interesting and enjoyable.

Dinner Solution #3: The full solution

When I have a lot more time, I add a few yummy elements to make the dinner more delicious.

Delicious food sitting on top of a wooden table

I prep and serve bruschetta before we eat. I add a green salad. I break out a bottle of wine to be sipped before, during, and after the meal.

This is a dinner that goes well beyond meeting our basic needs. It’s a full experience, and one we’ll remember enjoying.

Make your BIG project easier to tackle: grab my FREE Instant Project Prioritizer. Or just read on!

Instant Project Prioritizer

Let’s use this analogy to see how to prioritize your project to-do list

Do you ever get the “hangries” when you think about the to-do list for your next big project?

Let’s say you’re putting together a new offer. It’s really tough to know how to prioritize the mile-long to-do list you’ve put together!

All you can think about is:

  • “I have so much to do, I don’t know where to start”
  • “I don’t know if I’m working on the right thing right now”
  • “Where’s that bottle of wine I bought last week?”

Rather than sinking into a grouchy, unproductive state, I want to show you how to prioritize your to-dos with the “Dinner Solutions 1-2-3” approach.

Phase 1: Need fast progress? Prioritize the must-haves

This is the “I need to see if this idea will work” version of your project. Otherwise known as Dinner Solution 1: No time, no fuss. Plain pasta that solves the immediate hunger problem.

It’s also known as a Minimum Viable Product.

Let’s say you’re testing a new course idea. In keeping with our theme, we’ll make it a course about quick dinners you can make in 15 minutes or less.

You don’t have a lot of time available to create an elaborate solution. But …

You must know if your audience will respond to this idea before you invest a lot of time and energy developing it.

So you create a “Phase 1” version of your product — in this case, it’s a simple ebook.

A close up of food

You create it, promote it, and get feedback.

Some of the feedback is positive. Some of it stings.

But it all helps you see what your ideal customer really needs. And what they need is what you’ll create in Phase 2, when you have a little more time.

Phase 2: Have more time? Add some nice-to-haves

This is the “it will work better if I add this” version, otherwise known as Dinner Solution #2: Dress up the basics. This is pasta with some add-ins to make it more interesting, delicious, and memorable.

In the case of the project, you add a planner to the cookbook.  Phase 2 example

The planner has a calendar to use for weekly menu planning, space for notes, and a shopping list creator.

You offer this version of the product and go through the process of promoting, gathering feedback, and improving.

Once you’re convinced this idea has taken hold, you move on to Phase 3.

Phase 3: Want to make it memorable? Build in some extras

This is the “in the future it will look like this” version. Per our previous example, it’s Dinner Solution #3: The full solution. Also known as pasta, sauce, cheese, salad, bruschetta, and wine. A full meal!

Since we have thoroughly tested our idea, we feel confident about spending time and effort developing and selling a video component.

Phase 3 example

In this version, we show exactly how dishes are made. We include demonstrations of cooking techniques. We hold live question and answer sessions or make ourselves available for “cooking consults” once a week.

Warning! Don’t create a Phase 3 solution for an untested idea

When you look around to see what others in your space are doing, you’re probably seeing a lot of Phase 3 solutions.

These are product and service offerings that have been created over time. If they survive through phases 1 and 2, they may become quite well known once they reach Phase 3.

It might be tempting to model your new idea after these fully-developed projects. Don’t do it.

Instead, think about your favorite idea.

Map out a Phase 1 solution you can test.

If the idea flies, add to it in Phase 2.

And if the idea really takes off, devote the time and energy needed to create a full-fledged Phase 3 solution.

This is how you’ll make massive progress on your next big idea.

Here’s how to prioritize your to-do list: Take a deep breath and tackle it with a Phase 1-2-3 approach so you can get your project out into the world!

Grab my FREE Instant Project Prioritizer to break down your BIG project and get ‘er done.

Instant Project Prioritizer

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is the Chief Marketing Officer at DCS. She’s the creator of the Offer Accelerator Program. Learn more about Pamela’s content marketing books, and read reviews of the tools used to run this site.
Pamela Wilson coaches people in midlife to build profitable online businesses
I’m Pamela Wilson

In 2010, at the age of 45, I started this site and grew it into a business that offers freedom, flexibility — and consistent revenue.


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