Professionals belonging to any industrial sector or domain face the challenges of multi-tasking in the competitive modern world. Most maintain planners and task lists to keep track of their progress. But do all know how to prioritize task? Well, it’s a million-dollar question. You can inquire about any individual and will be amazed to observe curious looks of dilemma and confusion.
Among the many factors that result in efficient productivity, prioritizing tasks play a significant role. You may be under the notion that all your tasks are important and crucial. Then what are the genuine reasons for conducting a prioritization activity? Over and above, how do you determine top priority among the multitude of activities? The article will provide you with all the answers to your questions.
We will talk about why prioritizing tasks is vital for success and growth and how to prioritize tasks at work. There are various prioritization tools available to support and supplement the activities, we will discuss them too.
- Why is it important to prioritize tasks?
- Tips on how to prioritize tasks?
- Prioritization tools or method
- How to manage short term and long term priorities?
- How to prioritize tasks that repeats?
Why is it important to prioritize tasks?
Market and customer demands along with long time survival, drive companies and firms to increase their productivity above others. They are under constant stress to strive for the competition. The pressure is cascaded to every department and employee working in the organization. It happens among individual business owners and firms as well.
Unless you adopt the prioritization skills and segregate the tasks, you may not be able to align your progress towards the desired objectives. Classification of urgent and less important is a very much essential part of the planning and organizing in a professional environment. And it has to be done daily, even weekly or monthly for smooth and seamless execution of jobs.
The focus must be on completing the tasks of higher value and greater impact. The inherent results of such an exercise are remarkable and noticeable. Productivity boosts up, and goals are met as per the desired metrics and results, performance factor increases, objectives are achieved, and so on. Professional and personal life balance is well maintained. Trust and confidence with internal and external stakeholder enhance, leading to greater satisfaction and higher revenue. In the end, your future growth is positively impacted.
Tips on How to Prioritize Task
Prioritization brings in mental peace and relaxation, minimizing worries to complete tasks as per the stipulated deadlines. Sharing some useful tips on how to prioritize task:
1. Create a List with To Do Activities
The first step is to create an exhaustive list of all the activities under your radar. All strategic, tactical, and operational tasks must be listed, none to be ignored. It is advisable to record your tasks and activities too. In such a manner, you can maintain your entire day, week, or month efficiently. The list must be constantly checked and updated each day to ensure you capture only the relevant tasks. Eventually, you will stay organized and updated on the upcoming tasks. You need not rack your brain every time, trying to remember the daily activities.
2. Prioritizing Tasks
The second step is how to prioritize tasks at work. It is insane to think about accomplishing all activities in parallel. The tasks need to be ranked from higher to lower to fulfil them while meeting the desired deadlines. Some tasks are urgent and demand early completion. While others can wait to be finished at a later period. You need to understand the urgency and complexity simultaneously while deciding the rank. The best way is to ask a few valid questions:
- Which tasks are urgent for the company or the customer?
- What is the outcome or result of the task?
- When do I need to finish the task?
- What happens if I fail to achieve the timelines?
- Is there any potential risk in completing the task?
Important Fact: Always add buffers to handle contingencies and delays due to unavoidable circumstances.
3. Numbering or Ranking the Tasks
You can select a ranking or numbering mechanism for your tasks. It may be via numbers 1,2,3 etc. or A, B, C… etc. Either way, you have to define the meaning of each of them and set them against each task. The basic formula for categorization involves segregating them based on urgency and significant value or return for money. Typical prioritizing list examples involve:
- Very High – failure to complete may severely impact business and customer satisfaction; a reversal may not be feasible.
- High – tasks with higher value, and significant importance, earning potential revenue or fame
- Medium – strategic projects impacting the growth of business or company in the long term, resulting in significant visibility and earning
- Low – tasks that do not have a direct impact on the business functions or customer can wait in the queue for completion
- Very Low – optional activities, can be taken up when one has relaxed bandwidth
4. Fragmenting Big Programs into Multiple projects
Handling big programs and breaking them into multiple projects for easy execution is the quality of a program or project manager. You can manage and monitor your work well, and prioritization is easy and convenient. Sometimes projects are also subdivided into smaller sections for better management. Each subdivision is assigned a deadline and progress tracked at the lower level. It is a realistic approach for accomplishing big programs or projects, paying due attention to each task.
5. Timelines and Effort Estimation
One of the important aspects of how to prioritize work is time management. Unless you are capable and proficient enough to set the proper deadlines and hours/days required, the entire prioritization activity will fall apart. You need to estimate the hours to be dedicated each day for a task and then calculate the entire effort. Keep some buffer before fixing the target completion dates. Do not overcommit, resulting in unnecessary stress and reduction in quality. You need to maintain a balance between efficiency and quality.
Here are a few tips to assist in setting deadlines and effort estimation. It will answer your anxiety on how to prioritize the task.
- Club similar tasks for rationalizing efforts and time
- Anticipate risks behind each task and calculate the effort accordingly
- Sequence the activities and check which can be executed in parallel
- Keep space for personal work
- Place fillers to key in any feedbacks on previous work
Prioritization Tools or Methods
Here are some prioritization tools and methods to help you organize your tasks.
1. Leverage Apps for creating your To-Do List
The traditional method of creating a To-Do List was utilizing the pen and paper or a whiteboard. In recent times, the internet is flooded with applications that assist you in creating To-Do List online. The applications have several facilities of shifting the tasks in the rank of prioritization. You can even defer the tasks using the apps. Kanban Board is a prominent and useful application for maintaining tasks and activities.
You can break down your tasks into multiple sub-tasks and maintain a daily or weekly or monthly schedule as desirable. The online applications provide excellent user-friendly drag and drop facilities for modifying the To-Do List and planner.
2. Utilize Technology to rank the tasks
Ranking the tasks is a mammoth activity. If you sit and shuffle through pages of To-Do List activities, you may find yourself in total dismay. The other big issue is scheduling the duration of each task. Opening a calendar and then trying to calculate the hours is tedious.
The best way is to utilize various online time blocking applications. The apps provide the calendar beside the tasks listed in the system. You can drag and drop the dates and calculate the estimated completion duration. Once done, you can sort out the tasks based on their importance and time required. They help to track the progress of your tasks by calculating the time invested. The best is they have in-built intelligence to suggest breaks in between activities for personal benefit and health. Some of the key time blocking apps are Week Plan, Plan, and PomoDone.
3. Priority Matrix
We all know about Stephen Covey and his famed time management matrix. The US-based educator and keynote speaker had gifted to the world of professionals and entrepreneurs an intelligent quadrant. The four-quadrant or matrix suggests creating two columns for Urgent and Not urgent category and two rows for Important and Not Important category crisscrossing the columns.
The benefits of using the matrix are to list down
- tasks which need to be done mandatorily – Urgent and Important
- tasks which can be planned for an acceptable duration – Not Urgent and Important
- tasks that can be delegated to a team member – Urgent and Not Important
- tasks that can be eliminated for later consideration – Not Urgent and Not Important
You can easily solve your problem on how to prioritize task by leveraging the efficient and smart quadrant suggested by Covey.
4. Deciding the Important Tasks
After ranking the tasks, the next big question that may crop up in your mind is how to prioritize your time? For that, you need to select the tasks that are most important among the ranked ones. You need to understand the bandwidth for each day and assign the tasks to yourself accordingly. The tasks that you select for accomplishing in a day turn out to the most important or preferred tasks.
The exercise is necessary to prevent excess burnouts. One must not be under the notion of completing all the urgent and important tasks in a day. Hence along with ranking, time management is important. There are not tools specifically available for it, and it is essentially a theoretical method that you need to ponder upon. The method effectively must answer your question on how do you determine top priority among the scheduled high ranked tasks.
5. Stay Focused
Focus and attention are very important when you are really struggling to understand how to prioritize the task. Deviation to social media notifications, browsing through unrelated websites, and diverting mind towards personal activities are not desirable. It hampers your productivity, and the prioritization activities turn out to be a failure.
Henceforth, if you want to be serious on how to prioritize work, concentrate well. There are a few apps that can assist you in increasing your focus. The widely used ones are Chrome extensions called Momentum and StayFocusd. They are given free with Chrome and can be installed easily on your laptop or desktop. You can block unrelated websites to prevent distraction. The extensions remind you of your activities, the moment you open a new tab or a new browser window.
6. Use the Pareto Principle
Vilfredo Pareto, a world-renowned economist, had devised a unique principle called the Pareto Principle. The logic is to illustrate the relationship between the inputs and outputs of a process or activity. It’s an 80-20 rule; the definition being 80% of the consequences of a process is derived from 20% of the causes. The principle is quite popular and a good answer to the question of how to prioritize the task.
You need to find out how can you achieve 80% of the outcome from 20% of your tasks. You need to calculate the returns from your work to arrive at a conclusion. To explain the effective utilization of the Pareto Principle, one of the prioritization list examples can be that of event management. When organizing a business event, marketing and promotion are the key strategies for success. Hence you need to consider these two activities as 20% of your work, eventually providing you proper customer engagement and revenue.
How to Manage both Short term and Long term priorities?
A typical work schedule of a professional or entrepreneur involves both short term and long term work priorities. Managing both of them is a question asked my day, a typical query being how to prioritize my day with both types in my work bucket?
Short term priorities or tasks are easy to accomplish, as they have lesser effort estimates. Whereas long term priorities require proper planning, management, organizing, and estimating the duration. A few tips will guide you in effectively handling both the priorities with ease:
- List down the success criteria
- List the tasks and activities
- Schedule the dates based on a priority ranking
- List down the resources required to fulfil each task
- Break down tasks into sub-tasks and set milestones accordingly
- Anticipate challenges and risks and work out on the mitigations and resolutions
- Seek advice and guidance as desired
- Delegate tasks as feasible
- Track the progress of each subtask
- Plan buffer for delays and feedbacks
- Be ready for an alternate plan in case the primary plan fails to work out
How to prioritize the task that repeat?
Certain tasks are repetitive and recurring. You may wonder how to prioritize your time to handle such tasks. Segregate the recurring activity from the rest one time tasks. Break down the repetitive activity into smaller processes. Determine the frequency of each sub-process – daily, weekly, or monthly, etc. Estimate the duration required for each. Allot a fixed time as per the frequency to execute the tasks. Ensure your planner or To-Do List holds them as per the recurring schedule.
A few tips to save your time and effort in such jobs is to design templates. It subsequently helps in prioritizing more activities in the To-Do List. You can also leverage automation tools to aid in delivering repetitive jobs. In a way, it enhances your productivity and answers your question on how to prioritize my day.
Hope you have acquired sufficient information on how to prioritize task efficiently and with convenience. Enjoy working!