How to prioritize work?
Let us share some thoughts here. If all tasks in your list are urgent, then you will be a bit confused about which needs to be done first? Let us do this, List all tasks in an excel, make 4 columns, and then move,
Once you do that, it’s time to rank your tasks by placing them in the appropriate squares. Perhaps returning that phone call from a vendor is urgent, but not important. That presentation for the board? That’s both urgent and important. Do this with all of the to-dos that are currently on your plate, and you’ll be able to see what you need to start with immediately.
Here’s the system I typically use once I have all of my tasks categorized:
Urgent and Important: Make these your top priority.
Urgent and Not Important: Delegate these if you can. Otherwise, put them second on your list.
Not Urgent and Important: While these may not be time-pressing, they still need to get done. Pencil in some time when you’ll be able to tackle these.
Not Urgent and Not Important: Cross them off your list entirely. You don’t need to worry about those right now.
See how that instantly helps you get a better handle on everything that’s on your plate? Give it a try for yourself, and you’ll be breathing a little easier in no time.
2. Identify three key tasks.
Let’s face it—it’s far too easy to get swept up in the daily minutiae of your work life: A colleague sends you a quick question via instant message, which suddenly turns into a 15-minute conversation. An email arrives, and you figure it’s easier to just respond immediately. Your phone won’t stop ringing. Your expense report needs to get filled out.
You spend so much time putting out those little fires that it’s not uncommon to get to the end of the day and realize that you didn’t even touch some of the larger projects that you were planning on prioritizing that day. It’s frustrating, right? You need to find a way to keep yourself focused on the meat and potatoes—even when your plate gets piled full throughout the day.
For that reason, start each morning by identifying three key tasks that you need to get done that day and then challenge yourself to actually conquer those. If you can finish the workday and see that those three things were accomplished, you’ll feel (and actually be!) a lot more productive.
Three tasks might seem like a small number. However, it’s large enough to push you to keep your nose to the grindstone and stay focused on what matters, without being totally unattainable.
3. Start with something you hate.
Let’s all let out a collective groan for that one task that’s lingering on your to-do list that you’re absolutely dreading. Done? Now, here’s some crazy advice: tackle that to-do right away. In fact, make it the first thing you do. Wait, what? How could that possibly be an effective prioritization trick?
Well, for starters, that task on your list still needs to get done—no matter how much you loathe it. And, if you’re anything like the rest of us, you’re only going to continue to push it to the back burner in an attempt to avoid it. That means it’ll never actually be a priority.
Secondly, by conquering that dreaded task first, everything else on your list seems easy in comparison—which can kick your productivity for the rest of the day into high gear. There’s something powerful about knowing the worst is behind you.
4. Budget non-negotiable time.
Let’s zoom out from only daily or weekly prioritization and look at the bigger picture. How can you make time to work on those larger projects (you know, the ones that won’t get done in a day or two when the deadline is looming) throughout the month—when other tasks and to-dos start stacking up? You need to schedule some non-negotiable time for yourself. Literally put that time on your calendar.
For example, let’s say you’re responsible for writing your company’s blog posts. With all of the other things on your plate, you struggle to make time for writing and end up scrambling at the last minute. Why not set aside two hours every Wednesday afternoon that you can dedicate to blog writing? Physically block that time out on your calendar so people can’t schedule meetings during that time. Knowing that you have that time already committed to something specific will help you prioritize those major projects that tend to fall off your radar until it’s crunch time.