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How to Ruthlessly Prioritize Tasks to Get More Done

https://zapier.com/blog/prioritize-task-list-methods/

zapier.com

How to Ruthlessly Prioritize Tasks to Get More Done
Checking items off your to-do list is a beautiful thing-but it's also easier said than done. The best way I've found to make sure you complete your tasks is through ruthless prioritization. That means deciding not to do things you'd really like to do. It also...

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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 until you have only one thing to focus on right now, you can't help but get to work.

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Consolidate All of Your Tasks Into a Single Source

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.

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Analyze Your Task List

 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

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Use a priority matrix

Use a priority matrix

Take all of your tasks and assign each a priority.

This tool is particularly helpful for those times when you're drowning under a million things to do, as it helps you visualize what's really important and what can wait.

Whatever you do, avoid the busy work and time wasters that land in the not urgent and not important quadrant as much as you can.

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Use relative prioritization

Use relative prioritization

Assign each task a priority number, to weigh each task against the others in order to determine where to start first.

In these cases, it's also helpful to break your tasks down into smaller tasks to better assign relative prioritizations.

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Focus on your Most Important Tasks (MITs)

Focus on your Most Important Tasks (MITs)

Choose a few (usually 3) tasks to get done each day; those become your MITs.

When using MITs, your to-do list would have 1-3 of these, and anything else listed would become bonus, "nice to do if you have the time" tasks. You only work on bonus tasks if all your MITs are done—and if all you get through are your MITs, you've still had a successful day.

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Pick a single thing to focus on

When you're really struggling to get anything done, you should try this method, even if temporarily.

When you look at your task list, pick a single thing to focus on that day. It could be one big task you really want to get done, or it could be a theme that relates to several of your tasks. Choosing a single task or idea to focus on can be a good way to remind yourself to stay on track whenever you find yourself getting distracted.

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Find your 20% task

The Pareto principle states: You tend to get 80% of your results from 20% of your work.

What's really tricky is working out what that 20% is that brings in the results. But once you do, you can apply the ultimate ruthless prioritization to your workday: Make that 20% work your priority—and your benchmark for a productive day.

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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?

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 fro...

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.

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.