Hands up if you feel good after checking items off your to-do list. But with deadlines pilling, non-stop emails as well as career goals you want to achieve, it’s hard to feel this accomplished all the time, especially when everything demands your attention right here, right now.
The issue is having tons to do and no time at all. How do you decide what needs your attention first when everything seems like a top priority and you’re constantly rushing to finish things up, stretching yourself too thin?
How do you decide which to do first?
Enter the art of prioritising, which simply put is knowing how to prioritise your work and still get everything done as well as improve your work-life balance.
Where do you start? First things first – be focused with your tasks. They may come from all over – your boss, a client, a colleague asking for help, or even a personal task like paying the utilities bill. Ultimately, they all should end up in one place – in one master to-do list so you can see them all in one glance. Doesn’t matter if it is on a piece of paper, in an app or on your laptop. And yes, you combine the work stuff with the life stuff because you gotta get them done, right?
OK – so now that’s done. Here’s how you prioritise:
#1 Assign four actions to each task
Go through your list and assign these actions to each task: Do it now, do it later, get someone else to do it, don’t do it. This is a quick way to narrow down your list to what’s important and what can wait for later (and which ones you can defer to much later or even delegate).
How do you decide which task gets which attention? Here’s a guideline:
Do it now – Do everything that will take less than two minutes to complete so that you can them out of the way for the more important things.
Do it later – This is for those harder-to-complete tasks that will require more of your time and attention. Why do it later and not do it now? By completing the easier stuff, you actually have more focus to get these done instead of having that nagging thought of all the other non-essential things you need to complete.
Get someone else to do it – If a colleague can help take the load off, go ahead and get her involved. Or if it isn’t your role in the first place, hand it off to the right person in charge instead of taking it on. Can you get someone else to complete your errand, like a sibling or even hire someone to do it? If it frees up your time tremendously, it may be something to consider, even if there is a small fee.
Don’t do it – You know the tasks, the ones that have been on your list forever but you never get around to. It only means that these tasks provide little value, which is why you can keep delaying it. Our tip? Don’t do it yet until you find more time to actually get down to it.
Now that you’ve narrowed your tasks for the day, it’s time to think of how much you can complete in one day and how to best complete them all. This is what we call consider the effort tip. The point is to get as much done as you can – so if you can get five small tasks done in an hour instead of one difficult task in two hours, go for it. Prioritise tasks that require minimal time and effort so you can complete more at the start of the day to feel a sense of accomplishment to carry you through.
Feel like you have too much going on and can’t seem to prioritise? Think small then! Break your tasks into smaller to-dos you can handle, especially if you are working on a large project that is making you feel like you’re being pulled in all directions. For example, if you are planning a virtual event, split the tasks into a timeline – what can be done two months prior to the event, one month prior, one week, three days, on the day itself. Take this as your master list and give yourself mini deadlines each day to complete them that will ultimately lead you to accomplish the mother of all task, the large project.
Don’t forget why you are prioritising in the first place: To align your tasks with your goals. If your goal to is complete as much as you can so that you can focus on that big upcoming project, then you would prioritise to complete all the easy stuff first. Or maybe your goal is to get your boss to notice your efforts at work. Then on your priority list should be things that add value to your career. Or you may just want to be done and call it a day. Then be kind to yourself and don’t add too many things to that master list. Take note too that your goals can change from day to day so whatever is important today may not be as important next week.
Because the true art of prioritising is to be flexible and no be too hard on yourself to get things done. Prioritising helps you keep in check so that you are more efficient at your daily tasks that will then give you incentive to focus on your personal and professional goals.
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Image from emilysoule on Pinterest