Understanding how to prioritize your work can seem pretty daunting when everything seems equally important. In order to manage your workload and ensure you are hitting your deadlines, it is important to find a prioritization method that works for you. In order to help you out, Fellow has created a step by step guide on how to prioritize tasks and keep on top of your workload.
Why is Prioritizing Important?
Prioritizing is important because it affects how effective you are in completing your work and meeting deadlines. As you and your team work together towards team goals, identifying priority tasks will gift you with more time and alleviate stress if you are feeling overwhelmed with a long list of things to get done. More time will allow you to be more productive, and therefore more effective in your role.
How to Prioritize Tasks
1 Collect a list of all your tasks
This first step seems simple but is absolutely essential. Create a master list of each and everything that you can think of that needs to get done in the foreseeable future. How you create your list of tasks is up to you as long as it is easily updated and accessible to you at all times. This can be as simple as writing down all your tasks as action items in Fellow:
Now that you have your priority list, you can separate them according to timing. This means separating items into monthly, weekly, and daily deadlines.
2 Identify urgent vs. important tasks
After you’ve created a list of all of your priority tasks, it is time to identify which tasks are urgent and which ones are important. Items that need attention immediately are urgent. What’s left may be important or maybe something that you are taking on unnecessarily.
Be careful to only commit your time firstly to urgent items and then to important tasks. In a recent blog post by Rescue Time, they identify an effective way to organize what needs to be given attention first:
“Urgent and Important: Do these tasks as soon as possible
Important, but not urgent: Decide when you’ll do these and schedule it
Urgent, but not important: Delegate these tasks to someone else
Neither urgent nor important: Drop these from your schedule as soon as possible”
A reminder to look to complete tasks which are going to bear results, rather than simply checking items off a list.
3 Assess value to your team and company
Now that you’ve given priority to your urgent tasks, it’s time to shift gears towards your important tasks. Which item yields the highest value to your team and company as a whole? Answering this question will help you identify which task is most important to focus on.
Another thing that you can use to identify the level of importance of items on your to-do list is by considering how many people that item is going to affect. The more people being affected, the sooner you should get it done. Assessing value can also be identified through time management techniques such as the ABCDE method.
4 Reorganize your tasks based on deadlines
As we previously mentioned, it is super important to categorize your master list of tasks into monthly, weekly, and daily responsibilities. Considering deadlines that you’ve agreed to hit is the next part of the puzzle that helps to identify priority levels. Once you’ve separated urgent from important, assign due dates so that you can reorganize in order to meet those deadlines.
Assign due dates in Fellow to keep yourself accountable and organized.
Ensure that you are following up with your manager if you have tasks that are assigned without deadline dates so that you can keep on top of your responsibilities. A great way to keep on top of your deadlines is to schedule them into your calendar with reminders.
5 Order daily tasks by estimated effort
Different tasks require different efforts dedicated to them. If certain tasks seem to be equivalent in importance, try thinking about which one requires the most effort, and get started on that one first. As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits argues in an article for Buffer:
Completing the lengthier task first will motivate you to move on to the smaller tasks, having already battled the beast.
6 Consider the end-result
Another thing you can consider when prioritizing your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks is the final outcome of those activities. If you know that doing something will have a big impact on your team’s results (even if it’s in the long-term), consider moving that item to the top of your to-do list. ⬆️
In the end, prioritizing is all about focusing on the things that will bring you and your team the highest return on investment (ROI). If you consider the end-result of your activities, you’ll always be working towards reaching your team’s highest potential.
7 Adapt quickly
Change is a constant that we must acknowledge and accept. After you’ve created your priority tasks, you should know that they will inevitably and surely change as things continue to evolve on that given project. A little rearranging never hurt anyone!
Where priority level changes, the urgent and important items on your priority list should remain the same. Remain adaptable to changes that are sure to come up but keep a focus on your top priorities, even if their order switches up a little bit.
8 Know when to cut
Most of us know the feeling of writing a to-do list, only to carry over 90% of the items to the next day, then over to the next day, until all of a sudden we’ve been staring at the same item for weeks. It’s normal if you’re unable to check everything off your priority list, so don’t fret. Once you’ve taken a good look (and a deep breath) at your important tasks, cut anything that cannot be completed that day. Move it away from your daily to-dos and onto your weekly or monthly priority list.
The most important thing you can do is focus on the “one thing” that will bring you and your team the highest impact. Even if this means that you’ll have to cut off some activities and items from your to-do list. ✂️
How to Effectively Prioritize Tasks to Get More Done
Learning how to prioritize tasks effectively is going to make you feel more in control of your workday. With more time, comes higher productivity and effectiveness. Finding a prioritization method that works for you will help you identify urgent from important tasks, assess their value, meet deadlines, and identify the level of effort required. It will also teach you to be more flexible and understand where you can cut tasks that do not require immediate attention. Save and refer back to this guide whenever you are feeling a little overwhelmed and need some direction.
Finally, don’t forget to check out Fellow’s Private Streams to organize your daily and weekly to-do lists!