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How to Prioritize Work: 7 Practical Methods for When "Everything is Important"

https://blog.rescuetime.com/how-to-prioritize/

blog.rescuetime.com

How to Prioritize Work: 7 Practical Methods for When "Everything is Important"
One of the biggest struggles in the modern workplace is knowing how to prioritize work. Workloads are ballooning and everything feels important. However, the truth is that a lot of the work we do every day doesn't really need to be done. At least not right away.

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Learning how to prioritize...

...means getting more out of the limited time you have each day. It’s one of the cornerstones of productivity and once you know how to properly prioritize, it can help with everything from your time management to work life balance.

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Master lists

Master lists

Capture everything on a Master List and then break it down by monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

  1. Start by making a master list—a document, app, or piece of paper where every current and future task will be stored. 
  2. Once you have all your tasks together, break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals.
  3. When setting your priorities, try not to get too “task oriented” - you want to make sure you’re prioritizing the more effective work.

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Eisenhower Matrix

Eisenhower Matrix

The matrix is a simple four-quadrant box that answers that helps you separate “urgent” tasks from “important” ones:

  • Urgent and Important: Do these tasks as soon as possible
  • Important, but not urgent: Decide when you’ll do these and schedule it
  • Urgent, but not important: Delegate these tasks to someone else
  • Neither urgent nor important: Drop these from your schedule as soon as possible.

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The Ivy Lee Method

The Ivy Lee Method

Rank your work by its true priority with the Ivy Lee Method:

  1. At the end of each work day, write down the 6 most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. 
  2. Prioritize those 6 items  n order of their true importance.
  3. When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the next one.
  4. Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
  5. Repeat this process every working day.

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The ABCDE method

The ABCDE method

Instead of keeping all tasks on a single level of priority, this method offers two or more levels for each task:

  • Go through your list and give every task a letter from A to E (A being the highest priority)
  • For every task that has an A, give it a number which dictates the order you’ll do it in
  • Repeat until all tasks have letters and numbers.

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Set the tone of the day by “Eating the frog”

Once you’ve prioritized your most important work, it’s time to actually choose how to attack the day.

How you start the day sets the tone for the rest of it. And often, getting a large, hairy, yet important task out of the way first thing gives you momentum, inspiration, and energy to keep moving. 

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Warren Buffett’s 2-list strategy

Warren Buffett’s 2-list strategy
Cut out “good enough” goals with Warren Buffett’s 2-list strategy.
  1. Write down your top 25 goals: life goals, career goals, education goals, or anything else you want to spend your time on.
  2. Circle your top 5 goals on that list.
  3. Finally, any goal you didn’t circle goes on an “avoid at all cost” list. These are the tasks that are seemingly important enough to deserve your attention. But that aren’t moving you towards your long-term priorities.

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The sunk cost fallacy

The sunk cost fallacy
Humans are especially susceptible to the “sunk cost fallacy”—a psychological effect where we feel compelled to continue doing something just because we’ve already put time and effort into it.

But the reality is that no matter what you spend your time doing, you can never get that time back. And any time spent continuing to work towards the wrong priority is just wasted time.

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Things worth prioritizing in life

There are some general areas that all of us should prioritize in order to function well and generally make life worthwhile. These areas are:

  • Health and fitness. Bad health and fitness habits add up over time and have a knock-on effect in other areas of our lives.
  • Sleep and rest. Inadequate sleep leads to unstable emotions, impaired learning, imbalanced hormones and a compromised cardiovascular system.
  • Friends, family, and relationships. It's hard to mend relationships once they've been frayed. Be proactive about being the connector and decide beforehand what you won't miss out on.
  • Productive work. Instead of working harder, we should work smarter (more strategically.)

Things to deprioritize

Intentionally take your focus away from distracting areas in your life.

  • Social media and entertainment. While they can add fun to our days, it's worth reducing how much time we spend on apps.
  • Busy work. These are tasks we do regularly but that fail to move us forward. These tasks should be delegated, automated, limited, or deleted.
  • Negativity. When we focus on the negative, we are prevented from seeing reality clearly. It is then important to be aware of your inner thoughts. Maintain a running record of positive things people say about you.

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Personal Operations Category

  • Task management. This one is most commonly taught and includes systems like Getting Things Done.
  • Knowledge management. This is embodied in systems like productivity educa...

What's on your plate

Prioritizing tasks at work involves getting all your tasks and commitments in one place.  Take a piece of paper and make a list of everything you need to get done. Questions to help you:

  • Do you have commitments to others like your boss, partner, kids, or clients?
  • Do you have anything you need to submit? 
  • Do you have any financial tasks that need to get done? 
  • Do you have any planning that needs to get done? 
  • Do you have any administrative tasks? Legal, insurance, staffing, or training?
  • Do you have any professional development tasks that need to get done? Training, areas to research, skills to develop, books to read or study, or classes to take?

Brainstorm your goals

Find your goals. Without them, it is impossible to prioritize your tasks. Try to set 90-day goals, which is long enough to make meaningful progress. Questions to prompt goals:

  • What’s the one thing you could do that makes everything else easier or unnecessary?
  • If you were giving advice to someone else in your position, what 1-3 things would you tell them to focus on?
  • What do you want to have accomplished over the next five years?

Ruthless prioritization

It means deciding not to do things you'd really like to do. It also means deciding what's the most important task even when everything on your list feels crucial.

But if you can prioritize...

Consolidate All of Your Tasks Into a Single Source

To-dos arrive from a variety of sources. Your boss sends you an email, you get a Slack message from IT, a bill arrives in the mail, or a coworker asks for a favor in the hallway.

In order to prioritize your task list efficiently, you need a master to-do list that contains all of the tasks you need to prioritize and complete from all of those sources.

Analyze Your Task List

Go through your list, review each task, and decide what you want to do with it. You have 4 options:

  • Do: complete the task now
  • Defer: complete it later
  • Delegate: assign it to someone else
  • Delete: remove it from your list