How to Prioritize When Everything Is Important

To do List

There’s never enough time to do everything you want to do.

When everything on your to-do list feels like it’s of crucial importance, it’s time to use one or more prioritization techniques to make your to-do list more manageable and conquerable.

What is a Prioritization Technique?

You have 300 tasks on your to-do list. Which one is the most important?

A prioritization technique helps you answer that question by providing you with a formal method for evaluating the necessity of completing each task on your list. The process of prioritizing lets you make informed decisions about what you need to do, what you don’t need to do, and when you need to focus on certain tasks.

To help you hit deadlines, here are 6 steps to prioritizing techniques:

 

1. Collect a list of all your tasks.

Pull together everything you could possibly consider getting done in a day. Don’t worry about the order or the number of items up front.

2. Identify urgent vs. important.

The next step is to see if you have any tasks that need immediate attention. We’re talking about work that, if not completed by the end of the day or in the next several hours, will have serious negative consequences (missed client deadline, missed publication or release deadlines, etc.). Check to see if there are any high-priority dependencies that rely on you finishing up a piece of work now.

3. Assess value.

Next, look at your important work and identify what carries the highest value to your business and organization. As a general practice, you want to recognize exactly which types of tasks have top priority over the others (i.e. revenue generating tasks).

4. Order tasks by estimated effort.

If you have tasks that seem to tie for priority standing, start on the one you think will take the most effort to complete. Productivity experts suggest the tactic of starting the lengthier task first. But, if you feel like you can’t focus on your meatier projects before you finish up the shorter task, then go with your gut and do that. It can be motivating to check a small task off the list before diving into deeper waters.

5. Be flexible and adaptable.

Uncertainty and change are a given. Know that your priorities will change, and often when you least expect them to. But—and here’s the trick—you also want to stay focused on the tasks you’re committed to completing.

6. Know when to cut.

You probably can’t get to everything on your list. After you prioritize your tasks and look at your estimates, cut the remaining tasks from your list, and focus on the priorities that you know you must and can complete for the day. Then take a deep breath, dive in, and be ready for anything.

About the Author

Heather WIlsonHeather E. Wilson is the founder and CEO of The Canadian Coach, a directory and membership platform designed to unite, support and promote Canadian coaches. She's a successful business coach, speaker, author (Your Life According to You!), warrior, change-maker, risk-taker, and adventurer all rolled into one dynamic package.