Ruthless prioritization - Deepstash

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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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RELATED IDEAS

Accepting that you can't do everything

The antidote to chronic overwhelm is accepting that you cannot do it all.

Prioritizing means embracing the limits of your time and your energy, and taking back control of your to-do list. Embrace tactical strategies to ensure your priorities rise to the top amid the busyness of life.

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...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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  • Task management. This one is most commonly taught and includes systems like Getting Things Done.
  • Knowledge management. This is embodied in systems like productivity educator Tiago Forte's Building a Second Brain.
  • Priority management. Without this category, the first two will fail. You need to have your tasks and resources organized, but also know how to prioritize them.

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