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6 Necessary steps for effective prioritizing

Dec 2, 2020

There’s no shortage of things to do when you’re working toward your goals. Before you know it, one task can turn into an entire week’s worth of to-dos. One of our recent posts outlined our top tips for decluttering your schedule. Now, we’re going to push the envelope by breaking down one of the most crucial steps: how to identify and prioritize your tasks in a way that will help you get everything done without stressing you out. 

1. Combine all tasks into one master to-do list

Are you the kind of person who has a beautifully organized planner, or do you prefer sticking post-it notes all over the place? Either way, you’re not alone! We all have our own style of keeping track of to-do lists. For the purposes of whittling down your priority list, we recommend gathering all of your personal and professional tasks and putting them in the same spot. One of our favorite features in the Traction® Tools software is the To-Do list, which is specifically designed to help you stay on top of everything that needs to get done without any clutter.

2. Determine each task’s deadline

A great place to start is by breaking the list down into things you need to do for your own projects and those you agreed to do for other people, keeping those promised deadlines in mind. On the flip side, don’t forget the deadlines you promised yourself, too! Not everything needs to be done by the end of today (we promise!), so be realistic about determining when everything needs to be done and dedicate a fair amount of time to each task.

3. Rank each task’s level of importance

Now that you know the urgency of each task, break it down even further by indicating the level of importance. For example: reorganizing your client file folders is not as immediately important as fixing a client’s crashed website. Even if this feels intuitive, actually assigning a level of importance can help you visualize how to organize your tasklist.

Examples of ways to label importance: 

  • A numbered scale from 1-3 (1 = most important, 3 = least important)
  • Color-coded spreadsheet
  • Separate into tiers with the most important at the top

Be mindful not to take too much time labelling each task. You don’t want formatting your “scale of importance” document to take the place of the tasks you’re already trying to prioritize! Go with your gut when you’re labelling tasks. This will prevent you from over-thinking things and you can create your priority list without falling behind schedule.

4. Identify the most important tasks

You should now be in a place where you can easily extract your top tasks based on urgency and importance. Scan the list and see what jumps out at you as being the most important up front. Here’s where you can use some creativity with additional considerations!

Some things to consider when prioritizing your tasks could be:

  • How long it will take to solve
  • Difficulty level
  • Impact on the organization
  • ROI potential
  • Availability of other team members involved

Now comes the fun part! When you’ve chosen your priorities, separate them into a whole new list and decide what needs to be done to achieve them. Some items might be left on your task list, while others might be better suited as a Context-Aware Issue™ to be worked on as a team during your next Level 10 Meeting™. 

5. Tackle to-dos during your most productive hours

Everyone functions differently, which means we’re not necessarily productive at the same time as our peers. Notice what time you feel the most energized each day. It can even be helpful to jot down what time you finish your most important work each day to see if there’s a specific time period you’re at your most productive.

A schedule of your most productive time periods might look something like this:

  • Monday: 10:30-1
  • Tuesday: 11:15-3
  • Wednesday: 10-4
  • Thursday: 12-3:30
  • Friday: 10-2

Do you notice any patterns? In this example, it looks like the person is most productive in the middle of the day. Yours might be in the early morning, late afternoon, or even into the wee hours of the night. Make a plan to get the bulk of your most important work done during high productivity time. Protect that time by scheduling it in your calendar, so you can dedicate the necessary time to work through it uninterrupted. 

6. Regularly assess your tasklist to re-prioritize

Once you go through an initial round of prioritizing, it doesn’t stop there! Regularly reassessing what has been done and what should be prioritized next is a regular practice that will help keep your priorities in check and productivity high.

As new things continue to come up (as they always do!), run them through your prioritization process to determine where it should fall on the to-do list and schedule accordingly. When you reassess your priority list on a regular basis, you can stay ahead of the stress and continue moving forward.

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