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For effective time management, you must know how to prioritize tasks. This valuable skill allows us to identify high-value jobs and give more time and effort to get those done.
In our everyday life, we prioritize things based on our gut feeling. But sometimes, it becomes harder to prioritize tasks when everything seems important to us. Also, some people need to learn more about prioritization. Hence, it is essential to improve this skill to make better use of time.
In this blog post, you’ll learn everything to improve your prioritizing skill and how you can practice it to your advantage.
Why is prioritizing important in time management?
Before we delve deeper into prioritizing skills, first discuss the importance of this skill in time management.
By prioritizing tasks, you can utilize your time efficiently. Instead of wasting time on menial tasks, you can focus on the things of significant value. Here are some advantages of practicing prioritization skills in the workplace and daily life.
- Increase efficiency: When you prioritize tasks, you focus on the assignments and give maximum effort to complete them. As a result, you become efficient and deliver better quality work.
- Reduce stress: Prioritization skill helps you identify the most critical duties and avoid low-value activities. It saves you from being overwhelmed with multiple tasks. Consequently, you feel more in control of your workload.
- Plan efficiently: When you prioritize tasks, you’ll allot a particular time for the work items. Also, you will create a timeline to get them done. In this way, you’ll plan your to-dos productively.
- Achieve goals: By focusing on the most important things first, you will get more tasks done that contribute to your long-term plan. And you can make progress on your pursuits.
- Beat procrastination: A list of prioritized tasks will push you to take steps. When you know what is essential to complete, you won’t feel procrastination anymore.
Therefore, prioritization is a must-have skill to make better use of time, be more productive and achieve your goals in less time.
How to improve prioritization skill
In our everyday life, we prioritize work items based on our gut feeling. But when it is about critical decision-making or team performance, we need to be strategic about prioritization. The good news is that various tools and techniques are available, and you can use them to rank tasks systematically.
Using these tools and techniques, you can improve your prioritization skill and implement the ability in your day-to-day life. Here are a few ways you can follow to improve your prioritizing command.
Learn prioritization techniques
Various successful people and productivity experts have developed different prioritization frameworks and models. Here are five popular techniques discussed below.
a. Eisenhower Matrix: The most popular prioritization framework that allows you to categorize tasks based on urgency and importance. In this Matrix, four quadrants represent four levels of prioritization.
- Q- 1 > Do (Urgent + Important): Tasks that need instant action.
- Q- 2 > Decide (Not Urgent + Important): Need to schedule to get them done.
- Q- 3 > Delegate (Urgent + Not important): Should spend tell time, but better delegate
- Q- 4 > Delete (Not Important + Not Urgent): Not related to your goal. Time wasters.
Learn more about this technique from this article: How to Use The Eisenhower Time Management Matrix
b. ABCDE Method: It is relatively more straightforward than the Eisenhower Matrix. You need to categorize tasks based on urgency and importance but do not need the visual version of Matrix. This method involves the first five letters of the alphabet.
Here you have to define the importance and urgency of each task and put the letters next to each task. Each letter represents different levels of priority:
- A = Crucial task
- B = Less important task
- C = Nice to do
- D = Delegate
- E = Eliminate
By labeling the work items, you can rank tasks quickly and get essential duties done first.
c. MoSCoW method: Although it is common among project managers, You can apply it for daily priorities. It an acronym for four levels of priority and they are:
- M = Must-have
- S = Should-have
- C = Could-have
- W = Won’t have
The actual acronym should be MSCW, but the letter ‘o’ has been included to make it a pronounceable word.
To use this method, you need to focus on Must-have tasks first and then pay attention to Should-have work items and so on subsequently.
d. The 5/25 Rule: Have too many goals and need clarification on what to focus on first? The 5/25 rule may help you rank your goals. Here are the steps to follow:
- Create a list of 25 goals,
- Mark 5 goals that you feel are most important
- Focus on five goals and accomplish them
- Come back to the remaining 20 goals and repeat the process.
Although many people believe that Warren Buffett created the 5/25, there is no strong evidence supporting this claim. However, whether the rule originated from Warren Buffett or not, it is a valuable tool to clarify your goals and prioritize tasks.
e. 80/20 Rule: This rule is also known as Pareto Principle. As this principle implies, 20% effort yields 80% results and vice versa. For effective time management and personal productivity, we should identify the 20% of tasks that significantly impact our life and career. Then focus on those duties to get maximum results from our effort.
Now, which technique to use? It depends on your goals, the nature of tasks, and personal preferences. You can experiment with different styles and select one that works best for you.
Use Prioritization Tools
Prioritization tools will help you organize and rank your tasks easily. Here are some of them listed.
- To-do list: The most common tool we use in our everyday life. One piece of paper and a pen is needed to list the tasks you have to do. However, various apps are available to help you create a to-do list more effectively and take notes on the go. Give them a try. Some worth-considering tools are:
- Kanban Board: It is also helpful to prioritize tasks and boost personal productivity. In this system, jobs are written into sticky notes and placed into columns on a large board. You can move the sticky notes from one column to another. The board gives visual ideas about the progress of tasks. You can proceed with this system with a physical board or software. Here is a list of software providing Kanban Board.
- Google Calendar: A handy tool to schedule tasks and get things done. You can add work items and set deadlines and reminders. With Google Calendar, you can apply time blocking, time boxing, and other time management methods. It allows you to assign colors for each task based on their importance. Thus, you get a visual overview of your prioritized tasks.
- Apps and software: There have various software and apps available. They are handy for organizing and prioritizing work items. The advantages are that you can assign due dates, set reminders, and track progress. They are available both for personal use and for the team. For example, you can use Miro or Dwight for the Eisenhower matrix. And Any.do and TimeBlocks for time blocking.
However, initially, a to-do list is enough to get started. It is a less complicated way to begin. You’ve to figure out essential tasks by applying one of the prioritizing techniques. We’ll learn more about the process in the later section.
Read Books on Prioritization
An effective way to gain in-depth knowledge on any subject is a book. By reading books, you can learn things in an organized manner and get a better perspective from the writer’s experience. Several books on time management emphasize Prioritization. Here are three of them listed.
- Essentialism: The book is ideal for people who struggle to distinguish their priorities. In this book, the author, Greg McKeown, emphasizes eliminating non-essential tasks. Instead of remaining busy on trivial-many things, we should focus on a few high-impact tasks. And spend maximum time and energy on the tasks that matter to us most.
- Make Time: Two tech nerds, John Zeratsky and Jake Knapp introduced a four-step daily framework to free a person from constant busyness and distractions. In this book, the writers show how to combat the busyness of modern life. How one has more time and energy to devote to the things he cares about by making a few lifestyle changes.
- 80/20 Principle: Another book on Prioritization gives an idea of low-value and high-value tasks. And emphasize spending more time on high-impact work items. In this book, Richard Koch revealed the use of the Pareto Principle beyond socioeconomic context and let us apply this principle to our advantage.
Get a summary of these books from this article: 8 Best Time Management Books Ranked Top on Amazon
Practice Time Management Activities
Games and activities are helpful ways to learn anything. In training sessions, games and activities are often used to make the sessions fun and engaging. However, some activities are beneficial to train our minds for specific skills. Here we’ll learn about some time management activities that improve prioritization skills.
After trying these games, you’ll discover your attitude toward time management and fix the weaknesses if you have any. Here are five time management activities to help you realize the importance of prioritization.
- What I did yesterday: This is about getting an idea about your working pattern on a typical day.
- $86,400: A visual representation of the time we get every day. Since we can’t save time for later use, we should make the right choices to spend it wisely.
- The ribbon of life: From this activity, you’ll get an idea about the available time to succeed in life. Although our average lifespan is 60 years, we only have 6.5 years to achieve success.
- The mayonnaise jar: The most popular activity on time management and prioritization. It demonstrates that if we put more time and energy into unimportant tasks, we’ll have less time to do meaningful things.
- Time Squad: This activity helps us identify time wastes, so we consider rearranging time to have a more productive time.
Learn the detailed procedure of these activities from this blog post: 10 Best Time Management Activities and Games for Training
Seven Steps for Effective Prioritization
Thoughtful prioritization allows us to get more things done and reach our goal in less time. By implementing prioritization strategies, you can significantly change your working pattern and be more productive daily.
Here are the steps to follow for effective prioritization:
- Identify your goals: Define your short-term and long-term goals clearly. Outline the work items needed to achieve the goals.
- Create a master list: Write all tasks you need to accomplish. Include goal-related, work-related, and personal tasks in one place. Also, add subtasks related to the primary duties.
- Categorize tasks: Categorize each work item based on urgency and importance. Get the help of prioritizing techniques—for instance, the Eisenhower matrix or ABCDE method. If anything is urgent and essential, label it a high-priority item.
- Order the work items: Aside from considering urgency and importance, there have other factors to pay attention to. For example, the value of each task, deadline, effort level, and ROI. Rank work items from urgency to less important considering these factors.
- Schedule time: After you label each task’s priority, allocate time for each of them, assign a due date, and set a reminder. Use time management tools like Google Calendar and Trello to schedule your duties based on priorities and deadlines.
- Focus on tasks: When you do a job, try to focus on one task at a time. It will help you complete tasks more quickly and effectively. However, remember to take breaks. You’ll feel recharged and refocused to accomplish your desired jobs.
- Review and adjust: Review your priorities periodically and adjust them as needed. Be flexible about your preferences. Sometimes a low-priority task may become urgent or a must-do. Be adaptable to changes. You may need to adjust your priorities as new tasks approach or change circumstances.
Aside from tools and techniques, you need to know some rules for effective prioritization. Here are some tips for prioritizing tasks efficiently and making your to-do list rockin’.
- Capture everything: Whatever comes to your mind, write in a notebook. Keep one notebook to capture things, including professional or personal. It is what David Allen expressed in his GTD system.
- Set up a goal: Figure out your long-term goal. And the work items you need to do to reach the goals.
- Break in small chunks: Break your long-term goals or large projects into small and manageable pieces. Consider yearly, monthly, and weekly achievements, for instance.
- Set deadline: Create a deadline for the tasks even when no one is forcing you to do so. Be accountable to yourself.
- Avoid distractions: A distracted environment will hinder your performance, and you may fail to do your prioritized tasks on time and correctly. Hence, it is essential to take measures to avoid distraction, especially when you are doing deep work.
- Practice the 2-minute rule: If anything is necessary but not urgent and takes only 2 minutes, do it instantly. Don’t spend two more minutes scheduling it for later.
As prioritizing is one of the critical skills for effective time management, you should practice it daily. Soon you’ll experience its benefits in your life. Instead of wasting time or remaining busy with unimportant tasks, you’ll achieve more of your goals in less time.