Prioritizing tasks: how to prioritize work and meet deadlines
In this article, read about how to focus on what's important so you don't get stuck in a jam of small tasks.
The ability to prioritize your work is one of the most important (and difficult) skills in almost any profession. The longer the to-do list becomes, the more obvious it becomes that effective time management is essential.
It doesn't matter what you do. What matters is how you organize key tasks. Fortunately, learning how to prioritize your work and meet deadlines is not as difficult as it sounds.
In this article, we'll tell you how to focus on what's important so you don't get stuck in a jam of small tasks.
What is task prioritization
Prioritizing means determining which tasks are most urgent and organizing them. With proper prioritization, you can better understand what needs to be done urgently and what is not critical to postpone.
Some people use several time-management systems at once, while others write lists by hand. Either scheme helps you to focus on the essentials and not to forget about deadlines.
Who needs to prioritize tasks? Those who don't want to miss valuable clients, deliver a project on time, and don't want to forget anything.
How to prioritize your work
Whether you're putting together a daily routine or building a project management system, there's only one way to do it.
The following 10 steps will help you learn how to prioritize and manage your priorities:
- Highlight short-term and long-term goals.
- Write down all the tasks that need to be completed to achieve each goal.
- Create a short list of your most important and urgent tasks using the time management matrix.
- Determine the influence of the items on the short list using the Pareto Principle.
- Divide tasks with the same priorities using the ABCDE method.
- Group similar items using batch processing.
- Evaluate your time and resources for each task.
- Try to "eat the frog" (for priority assignments).
- Get your workplace in order.
- Regularly review your list of priorities.
Let's go into detail about each of these steps.
1. Identify short-term and long-term goals.
First of all, identify "anchors" by which you can prioritize: identify daily, weekly and monthly goals.
They can be related to the overall goals of the organization, quarterly plans, individual projects. The STAR method is a great way to get started with goals.
Strong - whether your goal is strongly tangible and related to results;
Theatre of the mind - visualize reaching your goal;
Achievable - ask yourself if your goal is realistic;
Ridiculously hard to attain - make your goal incredibly hard to reach.
2. Write down all the tasks that need to be completed to achieve each goal.
Based on the list you've gathered, make a master list - the backbone of the tasks you need to complete to arrive at your goal.
At this point, you don't need to consider the importance of each task. The main thing is to fix each one and transfer them all from your head to paper or to an application.
3. Create a short list of the most important and urgent tasks using the time management matrix.
Next, we need to apply several prioritization methods. Consider the first popular productivity tool, the Eisenhower matrix.
This is a time management matrix that divides tasks into four squares:
- Square I is for the urgent and important.
- Square II - for less critical tasks that have a longer lead time.
- Square III is for low-priority duties.
- Square IV is for issues that are neither urgent nor important.
Sorting by priority will help you figure out what to put first and what can be moved.
Determine the influence of the items on the short list using the Pareto Principle.
The Eisenhower matrix sorts tasks into major categories, but there are still tasks with the same priority. The Pareto Principle or "80/20 rule" comes to the rescue. It will help you identify the 20 percent of tasks that produce 80 percent of the results - you should spend the lion's share of your time on them. Analyze everything in the Eisenhower matrix in this way.
For example, by paying more attention to a certain 20% of your regular customers, you bring the company 80% of the profits.
5. Divide tasks with the same priorities using the ABCDE method.
Of course, we do not always know in advance what effect a particular task will have on our work. The ABCDE method allows us to separate them by adding two or three levels of sorting.
The ABCDE technique uses letter categories from A to E, where A is "highest priority" and E is "lowest priority. Within each letter category, tasks are also given ordinal numbers.
For example: A - conduct a call with an important client; B - make a commercial proposal, etc. It is advised to cross out the items in category E, these are some things that you have to give up, that you do out of habit.
6. Group similar items using batch processing.
When you browse through the main list of tasks, you may find similar ones among them. This is where "bundling" comes to the rescue. It allows you to bundle items into a coherent context - a single "package.
You group closely related tasks with the same deadlines into it.
So you get one parent task instead of several smaller ones - batch processing helps you do them more efficiently. For example, to write the designer's terms of reference for several covers in advance.
7. Estimate the time and resources to complete each task.
Any prioritization should include an estimate of time and resources. Use standard metrics - such as total hours or Agile plot points - to better plan your schedule.
When combined with task batching, this method will help you understand how to make future work more productive as well. Repetitive elements can be done by templates, it will save your time.
8. Try the "eat a frog" method for priority assignments.
According to Brian Tracy, "If you have to eat a live frog, you shouldn't sit and look at it for long.
Imagine that the frog is your most important and responsible tasks. Do them first.
A focus on the most important task (MIT) is just one of the many productivity-boosting techniques you can use once you've made your priority list.
9. Optimize your workspace.
Organizing your workspace greatly increases productivity. For example, create a document storage system that helps keep your space tidy while you work.
In addition, setting up your desk and minimizing distractions will help you focus on your top priorities.
Style and aesthetics matter, too. Place things around you that inspire you.
Do not forget about active rest during work: you can use a special table to work standing up or a fitness ball instead of a chair.
10. Regularly review your list of priorities in light of new information.
When prioritizing, you need to understand that they can change over time. Regularly reevaluating your master list and the prioritization methods themselves are essential.
Pre-planned reviews can include reviewing goals, importance of tasks, due dates, estimated time, etc. In addition, it's also a good idea to reach out to colleagues for reviews. Ask team members for advice and guidance on prioritization. Keeping track of tasks and their progress is handy in the Shtab task tracker.