How to prioritise effectively?

Every day we are facing thousands of new tasks; e-mails and phone calls, short deadlines, big workload and high expectations. Also we have our personal life, family, a home to manage and so on. Managing and organising our time became essential in order to be productive and don’t go mad.

Prioritising your tasks can help to be able to see the bigger picture, decide what is truly important and with that to reduce stress and improve focus. So, if you find yourself overwhelmed with tasks and you don’t know where to start, these prioritisation techniques will help you to see through the chaos.

Master List

Create a master list and write down every task you need to complete. Think of it as a brain dump and write down everything from your daily to your monthly (or even yearly) tasks. Include personal and work tasks as well. They both take your time, so you should count them in when planning your day. When the list is ready, assign due dates or deadlines to each item. You can create a simple table with four columns: item number, name, due date/deadline, priority level.

Extra tip: Don’t forget to manage and update your master list. The best time to do this is at the end of your workday. Use the last 10-15 minutes to go through your list and get it ready for the next day.

Start to organise: urgent vs. important

When you have your master list with all the deadlines, the next step is selecting which task(s) should be done first and which can wait. Categorise tasks according to urgency and importance. What needs to be done immediately? What are the consequences if the task is not done? Use the Priority Matrix for that:

  1. urgent and important: these tasks should be done first
  2. important but not urgent: schedule time for them in your diary
  3. urgent but not important: delegate
  4. not urgent and not important: remove

Keep an eye on the deadlines. Anything is due or overdue should count as urgent.

Extra tip: Be flexible. Priorities can change, even throughout the day, so don’t be afraid to reprioritise if needed.

Priority Matrix

Rank high-priority items

What happens if you have many urgent and important tasks to do? How to prioritise them? If you find yourself in this situation, you need to add an extra step and rank you high-priority tasks. To do this, assign some kind of value (numbers, letters etc.) to each urgent and important task on your list. Think of it as a scale: In a scale of 1-10 how urgent/important is this task? Rank your tasks by assigning a number to each item and start with the highest value.

Estimate the effort – Eat the frog

Consider the time and effort each task needs when organising your priorities. Start the one which will take the most effort to complete. You probably heard the expression: “Eating the frog” that refers to that tactic. Start with the most difficult one, get over it, then move on to the easier tasks.

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