How Do I Prioritise When It’s All Important?
When you have too much to do, you can’t expect to do it all, however important it all seems. You need to ensure that you’re making the best use of your time by focusing on what’s important rather than constantly focusing or reacting to what’s urgent.
Get out of reactive mode. Avoid being under the control of everyone or everything else. Start taking control of your time.
Make a list. Start by writing down everything you need to do.
Initially this can seem overwhelming but you need to get it out of your head, off all those post-its and scraps of paper and into one place where you can start making sense of them all and start planning your time.
Prioritise your tasks and actions.
Not all tasks have equal importance. Not all tasks will contribute to the results you want. Think 80/20 – 80% of your results will come from 20% of your tasks/effort.
Take a look at all the tasks currently on your list or projects you have underway.
• What are your goals or objectives for this week, month or year?
• Which of these tasks will directly contribute to the results you want?
Organise your tasks into low, medium or high priority. Which ones are urgent, which are important? Use numbers, colours or other ways to help you prioritise your list.
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important” – Dwight Eisenhower
You may already be familiar with the Eisenhower Matrix – Urgent vs Important. Organise your tasks into Urgent vs Important. (If you’d like a copy of the Eisenhower Matrix – drop me an email and I’ll send it to you along with tips on how to organise your tasks.)
Decide what action you’re going to take for each task:
• Do it now.
• Decide when you’re going to do it.
• Delegate it to someone better able
• Dump/Delete it.
If you find you’re often reacting to the latest, email, phone call or interruption or you always seem to be working on ‘urgent’ tasks – what makes them urgent?
Some things may be outside of your control – like other people’s deadlines or their lack of planning but there is usually something you can do or change to prevent this from happening too often.
Most urgent tasks can be avoided with better planning. Spend most of your time focusing on the high priority, important tasks and you’ll avoid them becoming urgent.
Daily actions. Having prioritised and organised your list, write down what you need to do today.
Make sure you complete at least one of your high priority, important tasks each day so you can keep moving forward and getting the right results.
Avoid spending your time working on lower priority tasks or wasting time on tasks that are neither important or urgent. Email often falls in to this category. Most people give far too high a priority and spend too much time dealing with their Inbox.
Be realistic about what you can achieve. Don’t create a daily list with so many tasks on, you know you won’t be able to complete them all.
Write down only what you absolutely need to get done each day. If you overload your daily action list, you’ll just get frustrated and de-motivated.
Spend an appropriate amount of time on the task in hand. There’s no benefit in spending a large amount of time on what is a relatively minor or unimportant task or getting too bogged down in detail.
Set time limits and completion times against tasks and projects and check-in regularly throughout the day to make sure you’re on track.
Be flexible. Life happens and sometimes you can’t avoid the urgent creeping up or getting side-swiped by something unexpected.
If you manage your priorities better and organise your time more effectively, you’ll be better able to adjust and make changes as new or different priorities come up.