Time and Task Management: 4 of 6
Step 3: Prioritize
This is probably the step you’ve been really waiting for – how to prioritize. I wish I would have learned so much of this so long ago.
I can’t tell you specifically what to prioritize, but I’ll try and give you some guidelines on how I prioritize:
- First, gather all of the information you need to correctly do your prioritization. For instance, I first have to check my email to see if any requests or issues have popped up overnight – it’s one of the reasons I do my prioritization for the day that morning. This may also include asking a couple of questions of people, as to when items are due when.
- Second, give everything in your list a due date if it has one, even a “when you want to get this done” due date.
- The next step normally corresponds with your “due date,” but I’ve found that I’ve had to make it its own step, and that is: Assign every to-do a level of importance.
- Critical: This must be done or worked on that day.
- Important: This is an important to-do, but it will take a backseat if a Critical pops up.
- Standard: Call it what you will, this is the level that means the task needs attention, but whether it’s today or tomorrow it doesn’t matter, but it can’t drop off the desk.
- Low: No due date, and it only gets touched if there’s nothing else to do.
- Lastly, you then schedule everything first in order of level of importance, and then by due date.
This might require bigger to-dos being broken down prior to Prioritization. For instance, if I am assigned a to-do to create a website, I can’t just put “Website Due in 3 Months” and put it at the bottom of my list because the due date is 3 months away. I’m sure this isn’t a new concept to you, but I figure I may as well state this. I have found myself realizing at the Prioritization stage that I need to break down some of my bigger to-dos (and I set that as a to-do itself – planning out my projects into tasks), and you may as well.
Normally, this will directly relate to the due date for the task at hand. However, it’s still important to do, because this will dictate on how you set up your to-dos (the next step). What you need to note on your tasks is some sort of level arrangement, such as the following, that denotes importance and means something you. This is simply an example:
This isn’t what I actually call my to-dos, but that’s because I’ve renamed my to-do levels in a language that I understand – I don’t think people would necessarily connect with the difference between “Fire” and “Urgent,” but that’s also because I’ve customized my list to work for me. You should do the same – maybe you don’t have four levels, but just three. Or maybe it’s five, even six – I don’t care, it’s not my list! It has to work for you, and it has to be a level structure you will use and stick to.
This was also a difficult step for me because I had to come to the grips that some things were not as high priority as others. But I also had to realize that if I want to get something done, I have to prioritize it, even if it doesn’t seem worthy of making a note of it, or it seems unimportant to the business – if I don’t prioritize it, it doesn’t get done, simple as that.
I hope that this was helpful for you! If you’re wondering why Prioritize isn’t the last step, stay tuned for next week’s blog! We still have two more to go.
Time and Task Management Series:
5 Steps to More Effective Time and Task Management (1 of 6)
Be Realistic About Time (2 of 6)
Schedule Time for Prioritization (3 of 6)
Prioritize (4 of 6)
Work Down the Prioritized List (5 of 6)
If Emergency Re-Prioritize (6 of 6)
Time and Task Management Includes Break (Bonus)