I’m pretty sure that you’re effective in your job, even better than the guy next to you. But while you may be an ace at what you do, figuring out what work should get done first isn’t always as easy.
Like it or not, setting priorities is part of your job. You can’t expect your boss, your co-worker, or your investors to set your schedule any more than you can ask someone to do your sleeping for you.
Here is the most effective way to prioritize your tasks:
1. Collect your tasks
List them down in ScribblePost, on your notebook, or even in a simple text file.
2. Learn what’s “important”
While it’s obvious that you need to prioritize your most important tasks, it’s not always as clear which tasks are truly important. Here are many effective questions you can ask yourself to measure task importance:
- Effort: how easy is the task?
- Deadline: what task should be completed the soonest?
- Impact: how many people will this task help or hinder?
- Revenue: how much will we earn (or save) from doing this task?
- Hierarchy: who is this for? Is it for your co-worker, immediate boss, or CEO?
- Growth: how much will this task contribute to my career?
Take note which criteria resonate with you. These measures will be what you can regularly use to check whether tasks are important or not.
3. Prioritize your tasks
Rank your tasks according to your chosen measures of importance.
4. Limit your work
Now that you have your priorities straight, it’s time to trim your task list. Delegate, automate or remove low priority tasks.
5. Do the work (but stay agile)
You should have a manageable to-do list at this point. But don’t be too rigid in following your task list, especially when the inevitable emergency comes along. Stay flexible so that you can still address immediate problems while successfully accomplishing most, if not all, of your tasks.
6. Review your list often
Regularly check whether the tasks in your list still have the same importance as before and change their rankings accordingly. Do this as often as you deem fit so that you’re always working at your peak.
Let the list take some of the weight off your shoulders and don’t think too much about your pending tasks. Also remember to enjoy crossing off tasks from your list and ending the day early if you finish them all. You will have definitely earned it.
The key to prioritizing tasks is separating the important from the unimportant, as well as knowing which work is the most important of all.
Prioritization is also about balance. Here are a few tips from a few top CEOs on how to balance urgent short-term tasks with important long-term goals.