Sometimes, there is just so much to be done at the same time, which may become overwhelming without the vital skill of prioritizing.
Prioritizing our daily, weekly and even monthly tasks, not only helps us do things faster, but also reduces the amount of stress that comes with working under intense pressure.
Therefore, learning to organize our tasks in ways that help get more pressing issues taken care of, while relegating to the rear, ‘the-not-so-pressing-issues’, is a better and saner way to live productive lives.
While some people may be adept at this skill, others may need a little help putting everything that needs to get done together. And this is the focus of this article.
Being one that works with multiple teams and projects at the same time, I cannot over-emphasize how relevant this topic is to me.
Performing maximally at my job implies that I have to be able to decipher the tasks that need to be completed at the moment and those that can be pushed forward to a later date.
To help me achieve that, I developed a cute little matrix (see below) where I stick in different tasks, in order of their relevance. And this practice has increased my productivity at work by leaps and bounds and has also strengthened my organizational skills. Now, let’s dive right in.
Steps Needed to Effectively Prioritize AND Become More Productive
- To begin the routine of prioritizing your tasks, you may need to write down a list of all your commitments in no particular order. I believe one thing that makes people unorganized or do work haphazardly is their inability to define clearly what their commitments are. A lot of times, we assume that we have it all in our heads, and so often do not see the need to have tasks spelled out. However, if you want to become better at prioritizing, one key step is the ability to know what needs to get done. And that includes having a list.
- The next crucial step in learning the art of prioritizing is to ensure that you place your list where your senses can relate to There is no point making a list and sticking it inside your bag, or in the cabinet or closet. At work, you can use push pins and stick them close to your sitting area. At home, you could have them stuck on the refrigerator. The most important thing is to ensure it is easily accessible, where you are able to see them, which also keeps you focused on getting particular things done.
- Now, you need to determine when each task needs to be completed. Make that determination by categorizing the tasks into:
- Must be done now (as in NOW!) or else there would be a BIG problem (Important and Urgent)
- Can wait to be completed later today. This task may not be so important but has an urgency associated with it, otherwise, things could go wrong. (It’s not so important, but it is urgent).
- Can definitely be done tomorrow. (Although it’s important, it’s not urgent).
- Can be done anytime after tomorrow-next week, next month, etc. (It’s not so important and it’s not urgent).
4. Focus on taking care of the most difficult things on your ordered list first. As humans, we tend to procrastinate and push off things we determine to be more demanding to a later time. And most times when we do this, we often underestimate the time commitment that difficult task may entail, which sets us into panic mode when we suddenly are confronted with meeting tight deadlines. Rather than pushing difficult tasks to sometime in the future, it is best to take care of them up front and cross them from off the list.
5. Avoid multitasking. In the past, we were made to believe that multitasking is good for productivity, and personal development. But it looks like that theory may no longer be true because, according to research reported by the American Psychological Association, workplace productivity is actually diminished by 40%, when people multi-task across various activities. The reason being that, when you leave a task uncompleted and jump onto another, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the original task according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of California at Irvine. So, rather than attempting to do everything together at the same time, focus on completing one task first, before jumping off to the next.
In wrapping this up,
Learning to prioritize our tasks and assignments, not only improves our productivity, but it also enables us to perform better and smarter work, as well as reduces the stress that goes with working haphazardly.
Remember the Pareto or 80/20 principle which says that, in any situation, 20 percent of the inputs or activities are responsible for 80 percent of the outcomes or results.
Meaning that, if you want to get more done in less time, then prioritizing effectively must become a part of your daily routine. You will be amazed at how much stuff gets done!
To your continued success. Cheers!!!