Sometimes there’s a lot of work to be done, but just not enough time or resources to do it. In this case, what is a manager to do? Hiring external help is expensive and overloading your current team will only risk higher turnover. But, finding ways to work efficiently with the resources you have is a great meet-in-the-middle way to survive a busy spell. Here, we’ll look at some ways that work prioritization tools can help your team focus on what matters most for your business so you’ll see the most results!
- What are prioritization tools?
- The benefits of task prioritization
- 7 prioritization tools to boost your team’s productivity
- How to use Fellow for task prioritization
What are prioritization tools?
Prioritization tools are software systems that help teams describe tasks, oversee due dates, and mark progress on activities. The purpose of prioritization tools is to help employees understand the urgency of a given task and determine which tasks need to be completed first. Often, prioritization tools can also enable team collaboration on projects to help improve communication, avoid missed deadlines, and ensure all requirements are met for a given project.
Prioritize getting action items done!
Keep the momentum going after your meeting is over. With Fellow, you can assign, visualize, and prioritize all your meeting to-dos in one place.
The benefits of task prioritization
- Helps you get focus time
- Reduces stress
- Improves work productivity
- Enhances time management
- Combats procrastination
1Helps you get focus time
Getting deep focus time is essential to maximizing productivity and finding the most innovative solutions. Focus time is any point in the day when an employee can tune out distractions or secondary priorities and instead dedicate full attention to one activity or task. When teams are provided with clear direction on what to focus on first, they’re more likely to achieve these most important goals first. This helps the company see bigger positive impacts on revenue and efficiency!
Burnout is one of the biggest detrimental factors to employee well-being and productivity, yet it’s rising in frequency. One way to help teams be less stressed in the workplace is to provide them with strategies to help them avoid multitasking, overwork, and miscommunications. A prioritization tool will clearly identify which projects require immediate attention and which can be put on hold. This way, employees will feel informed and in control of the projects that are in progress and upcoming. And when they’re more informed, they’re better able to quickly jump in and tackle that work!
3Improves work productivity
When there are miscommunications about what to do, they often lead teams to spend more time on tasks that aren’t contributing positively to team goals. Instead, leveraging prioritization tools allows team members to see what action items are upcoming and who is responsible for the completion of each one. You can also add your team’s objectives and key results (OKRs) to ensure that all meetings and follow-up action items tie back to these common goals!
4Enhances time management
As priorities become clear, employees will spend time on projects that have a higher value to business goals. This improvement in time management is also great for helping individual employees feel more motivated, which can lower retention rates! To prove the point, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, argues in an article for Buffer:
“Behavioral scientists have discovered that one of the most effective ways to create an enjoyable experience is to stack the painful parts of the experience early in the process. Psychologically, we prefer experiences that improve over time.”
Procrastination often occurs because of decision overload. When there are too many options of what to tackle first, employees might not start a project until right before it’s due. Unfortunately, this can make projects delayed or be completed with a lower degree of quality. In contrast, when you’re assigning due dates in a prioritization tool, you can also add an ideal start date for a project and a list of requirements to collect before the project actually begins. This allows your employees to confidently jump into new work and take more initiative in starting it early!
7 prioritization tools to boost your team’s productivity
- MoSCoW method
- Eat the Frog
- Eisenhower Matrix
- Product roadmap
- Pareto principle
- Action priority matrix
MoSCoW is a work prioritization method that allows teams to understand the full requirements of a given project. When taking on new work, try to get a list of requirements for each of these four categories:
- M – Must-have items that are absolutely required for the project.
- S – Should-have items that add high value to the project but aren’t required for its basic functioning.
- C – Could-have items that might add value but take additional resources that you may or may not have available.
- W – Will-not-have items that need to be avoided. Having these items included in the project is a waste of time.
To make it an everyday practice, integrate MoSCoW into your meeting agenda template!
2Eat the Frog
Eat the Frog is a time management technique for procrastinators. Since most procrastinators usually do their small tasks first and then dread committing to the large project, this approach is all about reversing that mindset. It encourages employees to jump into the biggest project (or highest priority) project first. Focusing on the biggest project first ensures they have the most time available to dedicate to it, so the “frog” could also be any project that has complex requirements or needs more feedback rounds. As a manager, you can try labelling the “frog” in each action item following every meeting so your team knows which tasks to do first!
The Eisenhower Matrix helps employees categorize a long list of to-do items as part of their work prioritization process. To start, create a 2×2 chart (4 boxes total) with “Important” and “Not Important” as the labels on the left side. On the top of the matrix, use “Urgent” and “Not Urgent” as the headings. This creates four quadrants with varying levels of importance and urgency, so employees can input all of their ongoing and upcoming activities into the matrix. The items in the “Important and Urgent” quadrant should be done first. Then, items in the “Important but Not Urgent tasks can be scheduled and “Not Important but Urgent” tasks can be delegated. Any final tasks can be put on hold.
Here’s a meeting template to help you integrate this into your next team meeting!
RICE is a prioritization framework that stems from the product management field but can be leveraged by any department or industry. The four elements of RICE are:
- Reach – How many people will this affect?
- Impact – What are the revenue implications or other benefits (for example, time savings) from this?
- Confidence – How much risk is in this project?
- Effort – How much time and additional resources are required to do this well?
The framework involves a calculation that will produce a RICE score. Each element must be measured on the requirements or results expected within the same specific time period (for example, per month or within 6 months). The calculation is:
(Reach x Impact x Confidence) / Effort = RICE Score
Product roadmaps are designed and distributed by product management teams, but other departments can influence the roadmap or use it to supplement their role. These roadmaps outline all of the upcoming features or new product introductions (NPIs) for a given product portfolio. Other teams, such as marketing, can use the product roadmap to determine when communications about new products should be released, for example.
When you’re bringing multiple stakeholders into your product meeting, follow this template to make sure everyone gets what they need from the call:
You might have also heard of the Pareto principle as the “80-20” rule. This rule suggests that 20% of your work activities will contribute to 80% of your overall results. In other words, look for the key things that are making the biggest impact on your OKRs and prioritize doing more of those things! It’s important to remember that the things contributing high value to your organization will change over time, so you might need to reflect on this principle on a monthly or quarterly basis.
7Action priority matrix
An action priority matrix helps teams align their to-do lists with their common goals. Like with the Eisenhower Matrix, you need to create a four-quadrant chart. Use “High Effort” and “Low Effort” on the chart’s left-side labels, and “High Impact” and “Low Impact” on the top labels. Your team should focus on low-effort but high-impact tasks as these will generate the most return on investment (ROI) for your team’s time. When practicing the action priority matrix, make sure your impact levels are measured against the OKRs your team has documented in a shared space.
How to use Fellow for task prioritization
Fellow is a collaboration software designed to keep teams aligned on goals and project tasks. It can help managers keep tabs on their team’s workload with a few key features such as:
- Shared meeting agenda builder to ensure that meeting time has a purpose and is used for valuable projects
- Space to identify and assign action items to team members, including the ability to co-assign projects and set deadlines (plus, get notifications when action items are overdue)
- Shared meeting notes so team members get real-time updates on new priorities, view progress on OKR goals, and track decisions
- Library of templates to make implementing a time management or prioritization technique easy
As your team grows and takes on new projects, you want to keep a close watch to prevent burnout. Helping your employees identify high-impact projects and focus their time on doing really well in those areas is a great way to ensure they don’t experience burnout. They’ll have less time spent multitasking, miscommunicating, or working on projects that don’t drive the business forward. Effective prioritization is a win-win, as your team will have a more balanced workload and you’ll see higher-quality results!