Being Productive: How to Prioritize Tasks to Achieve Goals
If you’ve been doing lots of busy work lately feeling stressed out with all these tasks gradually piling up in the queue of your priorities. Obviously, you’re not doing something right. From a business perspective, the ability to handle lots of projects effectively without juggling them around is the main key to becoming more productive in our daily life. And an ability to amplify overall productivity equals success. However, what would be the perfect solution to this dilemma? Let’s go over effective strategies for becoming an achiever.
In this blog post, we’ll give you some handy tips on how to tame the overwhelming chaos of unpleasant tasks, put them in perfect order, and cut to the chase. Learn about the most effective ways of prioritization and get rid of the pain of not meeting deadlines and live a much happier life. So, get some useful hints on how to set your priorities straight and make notes!
Tip #1. What Prioritization Really Means
Frankly, prioritization can be described as an ability to line up things according to how much they will impact life. Or by how much they will mean to your well-being at the end. Actually, an American author, Timothy Ferriss, who wrote a bestseller “The 4-hour workweek” has a great question in regards to prioritization: “What would you do first if you had only 4 hours to get everything done for the entire week?”
If you began prioritizing things, the first smart thing to do is to determine what “importants” are vs. “urgents”. The most common prioritization framework is called the “Eisenhower Matrix” and you can google it to read more about this stuff. Basically, this framework suggests looking over projects in terms of their urgency/importance criteria. By using this method you should be good at sorting out tasks in accordance with high importance vs. those that deserve lesser attention.
- Urgent – merit immediate attention.
- Important – projects that have an impact on the overall goals you set for yourself long-term.
But keep in mind that if you won’t be careful, you’ll get bogged down with the “important” stuff overlooking urgent issues altogether. However, don’t go over the top while getting organized. Because you can end up in a trap. What is that supposed to mean? In some cases, getting organized is often just pretend work. Yes, getting organized can be a pretty delicious process. But it also can become quite self-soothing. Especially when you see things getting done. But it does have a tipping point where some projects are often turned into busywork. Thus, it’s crucial to stay truly connected to your set goals or to the company’s business goals.
Tip #2. Learn All Shades Of “Urgent” vs.“Important”
Urgent tasks. Let’s say you’re having a test due tomorrow and it’s an urgent task with a burning deadline. When urgency blends with importance, it should always be prioritized. The whole point here is to assign the top priority to the most urgent things-to-do while putting everything else on hold.
Urgent but less important. The second aspect is about urgent but not so important activities. These activities are not a part of our immediate or long-term goals. But, at the same time, things that we have to get done to catch up with the daily routine like answering calls, attending guests, shopping for groceries, etc. Of course, you can always find ways to avoid daily responsibilities just to focus more on the important things. Or put them on the bottom of your list of urgent/important tasks. After you’re done studying for your test, go out shopping and do whatever is that you need to do.
Not that urgent but important. This aspect pertains to long-term goals which always should be in the backdrop. So, put some effort bit by bit into achieving these goals every single day. Daily efforts lead to bigger success.
Let’s say, you decided to enroll at one of the best colleges in the country. Prior to submission of your paperwork, make a plan of everything that should help to get there. Keep on moving towards your main goal every day by getting things done from your list.
There are always so many things we can really avoid just to save a whole bunch of time. Break your daily activities into three categories we listed above. Then think about the best possible way to distribute the amount of extra time wisely.
Tip #3. Distribute Your Workload Efficiently
Dwight Eisenhower once said: “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”. He knew that once a person gets caught up in a vicious circle of increasing workloads, it’s hard to tell what things should come first. Here comes the necessity to learn how to distribute the workload effectively to minimize the stress.
For instance, most business owners or managers can end up spending a significant part of our day problem-solving. But if you carve out a portion of the day and dedicate it to working on opportunities doing this consistently every day, good things will start happening. Like what? Over time, lesser problems and emergencies will pop up leading to real progress in business goals preventing more problems from showing up.
But how do you figure out truly important tasks that aren’t really urgent? By asking these questions:
- Does this task move me closer to my big goals?
- Is this task critical to any of my ongoing, current projects? In other words, is it creating a bottle-neck in any of my projects? Will doing this task allow my team members to move forward faster?
- Can this task be done by anybody else at least half of it? How much time is needed for achieving obvious progress?
Pay attention to tasks that get a “Yes” answer because those are the ones that you need to prioritize.
Tip #4. Get Your Decision Checklist In the Right Order
So, we got that – prioritization is simply recognizing tasks that should be given immediate attention. And putting other important ones that can be done at a later time aside. However, prioritization often becomes a problem that many among the workforce today encounter, especially those who are bombarded by a hefty load of obligations.
There are several strategies to deal with this kind of quandary, but all of them are about using a simple process of elimination. One way to do it is by creating a master list, then dividing it up further in weeks, months, etc.
Questions to consider while organizing your workload checklist:
- What are my top goals for this given period? (product release, brand study, sales wins, process improvements, projects, closed cases, etc.)
- What are the due dates of these goals? (put them in order)
- What’s the impact if you don’t hit them? (you, your department, other departments, or the business)?
However, don’t just make this list. Think of the aspects that depend on everything that you are prioritizing – life, work, relationships, etc. After you have an outline all written out, prioritize by risk level, effort level, due dates, urgent, customer priorities, department priorities. It’s truly endless.
While prioritizing, split tasks into groups, as follows:
Critical/Dependent tasks – most critical to the current project or other tasks rely heavily on these being completed (such as putting a roof on top of the house before you’ve built the walls)
Non-Dependant/Required functionality tasks – can be classed as usable but other tasks do not rely on these to be finished before you can actually start working on them.
Everything Else – can be completed at any point and are not essential to projects entering testing phases, etc.
Try the nTask app to help prioritize tasks. This application was built specifically for those who want to assign priorities most effectively. This app can provide assistance to teams that want to work in collaboration, as well to do the planning, analyzing, managing everyday tasks, etc.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to set due dates, and distribute tasks to team members in accordance with your priorities list. And you’ll get much more stuff done easier and make workdays greatly productive. However, it is also important to not be too “task-oriented” when it comes to setting priorities. It should not be about crossing things out and off the checklist. Rather, it should also be about making the most important tasks be dealt with on time.
Tip #5. Rum Up Your Efforts By Playing To Your Strength
In order to increase the effectiveness of your efforts, follow a Pareto principle (let the top 20% of tasks contribute to 80% of your output). Following this principle will help to identify the most crucial activities that should contribute the most to your output.
First, rank the tasks in accordance with their importance:
A very important – has serious consequences for doing or not doing it;
B important – with mild consequences that don’t last for very long;
C nice to do – like chatting with a co-worker or calling a friend, no consequences at all for career and success;
D delegate – outsource to someone else to free up time and concentrate on more important things;
E eliminate – low-value tasks with no difference at all.
Effective time management is at the core of the business and personal growth, and success. Employees and management need to focus on what really matters and cut out all activities that add little or no value.
Achieve greater results faster by managing time-based on value-added and impact. Every organization establishes its core revenue, as well as cost drivers. So, your goal is to prioritize projects in accordance with their potential revenue and how much value these tasks could help to generate. Or how much cost savings could be realized.
Cost savings can also be viewed from the dimension of time. You should prioritize tasks that save labor hours as this translates to cost savings. Activities that lead to better, faster, and informed decision-making should also be given high priority.
Rank. After deciding what tasks you’re going to focus on immediately, rank them. Evaluate what urgency and relative importance each task has. Determine their contribution to the bottom line. But keep in mind that this stage is tricky since it cannot be reliably estimated. Use a good rule of thumb and go over the historic data. Tasks that contribute more to the bottom line and to the organization’s well-being should be ranked higher.
Allocate Time Slots. Have you ranked tasks in accordance with importance, urgency, and contribution to the bottom line? Now, the next step is to allocate a time slot for each of these tasks. Use your common sense, your ability to judge with a cold mind, and make estimates that make sense.
Execute. Prioritizing tasks doesn’t make sense if you don’t execute. Execute prioritized tasks in accordance with speed and accuracy.
Track Progress. The final stage is to track progress just to see whether your efforts are yielding great results. When you reach milestones, it’s a good indication that your time has been well spent.
Every time you feel like there’s a lot to be improved, it means that there’s nothing really important. Perhaps what you need to wonder should be what should be done first instead.
Always try to ask yourself what the most important things have to be done first during this particular month, week, today. Ask lots of “why” and “what ifs” to shape your prioritized list of projects. Then toil on them, one step at a time.
At times, given any moment, there should be only one to three most important things that we need to pay attention to. Once the list goes beyond 5 items, it means that the scope starts to grow bigger. And, well, we’re losing direction or rolling off the road. So, if something like that happens, get back on track as soon as you can by setting priorities straight. – narrow the scope down, list out what’s important, go single-tasking mode. And this is how you prioritize time and energy effectively for getting everything done!