It is claimed that prioritization is one of the brain’s most energy consuming activities.
If you start your work day by, for example, reading emails for ten minutes, you have already consumed the energy you would need to prioritize your work tasks.
This is why prioritization is worth prioritizing, as the American author David Rock points out in his book Your Brain at Work.
Not least when you have several shared workspaces open and work with things that take place in another place in the world.
With more balls in the air, prioritization becomes even more important.
Your capacity should last a long time. You yourself must think that there is a reason why something is prioritized, otherwise it is only a duty.
Then it becomes difficult to motivate and find desire.
And if you yourself are not motivated, it will be difficult to make others think that something is important.
Your mental condition, your shape, is important.
If you yourself are tired and exhausted, you lose the desire, then what you do feels like a duty.
No one is equipped for their own change when you are tired.
The best way to be in good mental shape is to never have too much to do – the basis is of course that the load in your work is reasonable.
Therefore, it can be a good idea to turn off your workspaces, your email and your phone when engaging in prioritization.
When you have to change your way of working, take one thing at a time, implement and continue with what works.
10 priority rules for your work day
A well-thought-out prioritization often means creating a schedule, evaluating work tasks and allocating time for tasks to have an efficient working day.
Prioritization needs to be flexible because you may need to set aside low-priority tasks to take on more urgent tasks.
1. Make a list of all your tasks for the day
You only achieve effective prioritization once you have understood the full scope of what needs to be done.
Even the most trivial tasks should be written down and taken into account.
In order for you to get as complete a picture as possible, it is a good idea to include both work-related and private tasks in one and the same list.
Everything from picking up the dry cleaner to scheduling a meeting with the boss must be on the same list.
Once you have written everything down, you prioritize all tasks according to their importance, importance, time and profit.
2. Visualize your work
With “knowledge work”, it is our brain that must constantly be alert and able to work to perform all tasks.
As long as we have the work alone in our head, there is a risk that we forget and that we are not efficient enough.
To start the journey of becoming more efficient, it is important to first see all the tasks.
Then you get an overview of the whole and not just each task separately.
Divide your tasks into X number of main areas. Think about everything you do in a year.
What are the main areas you have (overall, core areas for your work, administration, factual knowledge?
What tasks belong to each main area?
When you have had everything, think about whether there are more important tasks you should do, but do not have time.
On-call with the news in your industry, follow research and surveys, read books, articles, magazines, tasks that enable you to develop your knowledge of your work and result in increased competence.
When the list is complete, the next step is to consider what percentage of your normal working hours you should distribute over your main areas.
The total should preferably be 100% including the activities that increase your factual knowledge.
Take a new thinker.
The distribution you have now estimated the time for in% how you work today.
Is it desirable?
Would you like a different distribution?
Something should perhaps be minimal in scope and what you may not do today (factual knowledge for example).
What should that area be allowed to take in% and which other information must be reduced in that case.
Now you hopefully have a good overview of your main work areas, your work tasks and a gap between what your reality looks like and how you want it to be.
3. Identify what is important: Understand your true goals
Although it may seem like a simple time management issue, prioritization is crucial if you want to achieve long-term goals.
By gaining a full understanding of what you are actually working to achieve – whether it is a promotion, a project completion or a career change, you can identify the tasks that are most important for you to be able to achieve the desired result in the future.
It can be good to divide your goals into smaller sub-goals with time limits.
An annual goal can e.g. divided into monthly to-do lists which in turn are divided into weekly lists and daily priorities, etc.
Alejandro Cerecedo, fashion manager at PR company Another Company and a member of WeWork Reforma 26 in Mexico City, uses long-term goals to motivate and lead his team at the beginning of the year.
“We talk about personal and professional goals and come up with a timeline for how to achieve them,” says Cerecedo.
Being able to see the whole picture is crucial for effective prioritization: It is a common misconception that “being busy” is the same as being successful.
But if you spend the day on tasks that have no impact on your end goals, you have wasted your time.
Be honest with yourself about the value of each task in the long run and always keep the end goal in mind.
4. Structure your tasks
By structuring what needs to be done, you will prioritize the right tasks.
This means that the right things are done.
Of all the tasks you have to be done in a certain amount of time.
Which are a must right now, which are less important and which can wait?
Use the overview you did in tip 2 to get an overview and think about what is the absolute highest priority to finish in the next few weeks.
Once you have selected tasks within each main area, make an estimate of how long you assess each task to complete.
Is there information that can take three hours or maybe several days?
If you divide those tasks into several steps (less time spent per task), you will thank yourself.
It will be like handling larger tasks as your own projects.
When you then plan the tasks in your calendar, they become much easier to find time to complete (one hour instead of 5 hours), and easier to get started with.
You know that a task will take about 6 hours and must be completed the same week.
The risk is very high that you constantly postpone the task until the next day.
You imagine that day will be calmer.
It is a good way to deceive oneself but very negative.
Every time you postpone the task, your inner stress increases that it has not been done.
5. Mark the most urgent
Your list must clearly show your deadlines so that you can easily see what tasks you need to take on immediately and in order for you to be able to plan more deadlines.
It is also important to create deadlines, even when they are not formally required.
Otherwise, you will continue to postpone important tasks because they are not timed.
This strategy can also help increase your productivity and reduce the number of tasks that are postponed.
6. Prioritize the tasks depending on how important they are and what time frame they have
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People from 1989, the businessman and lecturer Stephen Covey suggests that tasks should be categorized (and then prioritized) according to importance and concern.
- Urgent and important: These tasks must be done first
- Important but not urgent: Set aside time to be able to perform these without interruption
- Urgent but not important: Delegate. Delegate. Delegate.
- Neither urgent nor important: Remove from to-do list
another way to ensure that important tasks are prioritized – even higher than those from demanding stakeholders or urgent “extra jobs” – is to use the MIT (Most Important Tasks) method.
This method advocates that you make a list of three different things that must be completed that day.
These tasks must be chosen more by importance than matter.
Use targeted questions to determine: Which tasks will affect the end result the most?
What can I do today to get closer to my goal?
7. Plan your tasks
In order to be able to perform the right tasks within the allotted time, planning is very important.
It helps you to know how much time you have before a task must be completed and how much other tasks must be done in parallel.
In addition, tasks are booked in the calendar and it becomes easier to prioritize the right tasks every day.
You become less event-driven and more goal-oriented.
When you are alert and have high energy, everything feels much easier and you get a lot done.
After a while, the brain becomes strained and your energy drops.
Then hopefully a break will help.
During the day, a lot can happen depending on how you yourself feel and are alert, but also others who attract attention.
To help yourself work as efficiently as possible and get what you have decided to do, it helps a lot to plan your own meetings regularly.
Planning meetings for every working day, every week and every month.
8. Avoid priorities that clash with each other
When you work on tasks that are not so difficult, it is easier to handle several at the same time.
But when it comes to more difficult tasks, research shows that people in higher positions prefer to prioritize a single goal, while people in lower positions tend to continue to try to deal with multiple priorities.
The strategy of managing more than one goal at the same time has been linked to poorer results, which means that the most important tasks are not carried out in the best way.
You can focus on one important task at a time by identifying probable distractions – and actively avoiding them during the workday.
This means that if your task is to extract data for a project and at the same time create a slide show, you must prioritize a task and avoid other tasks such as reading emails, messages or preparing other tasks.
9. Take the work effort into account
When you have a long to-do list, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done – a feeling that has a negative impact on your productivity and that often leads to you postponing tasks.
One way to prevent this is to evaluate the tasks according to the effort they require to complete.
If your to-do list gets too long, prioritize the tasks that require the least time and effort so that you can harvest them quickly.
By cleaning up the tasks in this way, you get some breathing space and it also gives you a feeling that you have been given something done and the strength to continue working on today’s tasks.
10. Update the list and be realistic throughout the process
One of the five steps in the GTD method (Get Things Done) developed by productivity expert David Allen is precisely about critical thinking.
In order for you to be able to “maintain control and focus”, it is crucial that you reconsider your to-do list often, says Allen.
Quick tips for effective prioritization
As you realize how important it is to prioritize correctly, it can feel more complicated – and stressful – than creating a simple to-do list.
To help you prioritize correctly, I have compiled the above prioritization rules below.
- Write it all down: Collect work-related and private tasks in one place.
- Evaluate your long-term goals: Take into account your more important long-term goals and what you need to do to achieve them.
- Break down the most important goals into sub-goals: Gain a better understanding of what is required to meet the goals by breaking them down into annual, monthly and weekly sub-goals.
- Create clear deadlines: Make sure your deadlines are clearly visible and create your own deadlines even when they are not required.
- Use the “urgent vs. important” method: Prioritize urgent and important tasks. Set aside a specific time for tasks that are important but not urgent.
- Delegate or delete other tasks.
- Create a daily MIT list: Write down three important tasks that must be done that day. These should all be related to your more important long-term goals.
- Avoid distractions: Do not let yourself be distracted by other tasks, especially as the difficulty increases.
- Take the work effort into account: When your to-do list starts to feel unaffordable, prioritize after the work effort and get rid of simpler tasks faster.
No matter how good you are at prioritizing, there is a limit to how much you can accomplish in a workday, and some distractions need to be taken into account.
It is important that you are realistic when setting goals and prioritizing tasks.
Otherwise, you create false expectations in your employees and you will always have the feeling of being behind.
Remember that the purpose of prioritization is to have time to work on important tasks, those that are important in the long term and that move you forward in the right direction.
Once you have succeeded in prioritizing, you will feel more focused and goal-oriented.
The goal is to achieve true success and put everything else – “preoccupation” – on the shelf.
If you wanna learn more, then check out this video on Youtube if you wanna go more in-depth on the topic: