Consistent, sustainable productivity is all about priority setting. Prioritization is a soft skill that can literally affect your success at every level. Without honing prioritization skills, the only thing you can really count on is frustration, decreased productivity, and high levels of stress.
Prioritization is the ability to sort through tasks and determine which tasks need attention first and which tasks need the most attention. It also includes creating lists of tasks in descending order of urgency. Setting priorities this way helps people to use their time more wisely, and also allows them to get more of the important stuff done in a timely manner. Once you have had these practices in place for a while, you will notice that productivity momentum will start to grow because the right things are getting done at the right time.
What should you do, though, when every task on your list feels urgent? How do you sift through those tasks and apply time and energy appropriately? This quick guide was designed to help you understand how to prioritize tasks when everything is urgent.
1. Create a List of Tasks
Prioritizing is always easier when you can do it visually. When everything is just bumping around inside your brain, you can start to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Put the tasks on a list so that you can visually see each one. The order of the tasks at this point doesn’t really matter. Just get them written out.
You should make notes of which tasks have a deadline attached. If there are deadlines involved, you will first want to consider these deadlines. Deadlines are an easy way to determine what is truly urgent and what is not.
You will also want to take a look at which tasks are foundational to the success of the entire project. There may be certain tasks that will need to be done in order for the others to get done. Take some time to clarify which tasks will be foundational to the others. This step will help you further determine urgency.
To make this step easier, you might want to consider digital organization options such as mobile calendars.
2. Determine Urgent Vs Important
The terms urgent and important may seem synonymous, but they are not. An important task is a task that needs to get done, but an urgent task is often connected with a deadline or it is a foundational task that must be done before anything else can be accomplished.
Look through your list again and re-write the list, now putting urgent tasks at the top to avoid feeling burnt out.
3. Create a Timeline
Now that you are clear on urgent vs important, you will want to create a timeline that will incorporate any deadlines that have already been established. With the deadlines in mind, how much time will you realistically need for each task? Set up the list of prioritized tasks with these timeframes in mind. Your timeline should smoothly take you from start to finish within the deadline.
4. Be Realistic
One of the big mistakes people make when prioritizing is that they are not realistic with expectations of how much they will get accomplished. Be realistic when setting up tasks. Make time for hurdles and challenges. Expect hurdles and challenges, so that they do not completely derail you when they happen.
Prioritizing and organizing tasks in this way will help you to become more productive and less stressed.