American theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler once said: “Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.”
Wise words indeed!
Time can be our friend if we know how to join forces with it. However, if we try to overcome time, we’ll eventually be defeated.
Why am I talking about time when this posts is supposed to be about prioritizing? Well, learning to prioritize involves learning to spend your time shrewdly.
I’m sure you’ve worked at places where colleagues always claim to be super busy. You know the type: “I can’t talk right now, as I’ve got deadlines to meet!”
While you may be initially impressed by their busyness and commitment, it doesn’t take you very long to find out that although they appear to be forever hectically working, they don’t actually get much done!
It’s a scenario that I’ve personally come across many times. But, to be honest, it’s not the fault of the individuals (who clearly have a good work ethic). It’s the fact that they’ve never been taught how to prioritize their work. This leaves them caught in an endless cycle of distractions, interruptions and jumping back and forth between tasks. It’s no wonder, then, that their output is lower than it should be.
I don’t know about you, but when I was at school, none of my teachers taught me how to prioritize my work. I had to learn this skill the hard way – through mistakes, trial and error, and extensive research on the topic.
What have I learned about prioritizing?
Well, in a moment I’ll share article I wrote on this subject. But, before you click through to read it, let me give you three keys to the door of successful time management…
Key #1 – Start your day by noting down all the tasks you need to complete
Pick up your pen or smartphone and start writing in your notepad the stuff you need to achieve. This might include things like:
- going through your emails
- writing a project document
- meeting your boss for a catch-up session
- creating a PowerPoint presentation
- sorting out your expenses
Key #2 – Sort the tasks into order of importance
The next step is to spend a few minutes putting your tasks into order of priority.
You can do this by looking at which tasks must be finished by the end of the day, which tasks add the most value to your job and the organization, and which tasks would be nice to finish, but are not essential.
By following this method, you’ll be able to quickly break your list down into MUST do, SHOULD do, and GOOD to do tasks.
Using the list from above, you’ll be able to rearrange this as follows:
- creating a PowerPoint presentation (Must do)
- writing a project document (Must do)
- meeting your boss for a catch-up session (Should do)
- going through your emails (Should do)
- sorting out your expenses (Good to do)
Key #3 – Start working through the high-priority tasks first
You’re now ready to start work on your most important task. And, once you’ve completed this, you can then move to your next task, and so on and so forth.
By working this way, you’ll ensure that your critical tasks are always completed. And, in most cases, you’ll typically find that you have plenty of time to complete ALL of your daily tasks.
Of course, there may be occasions when your boss suddenly dumps on you some urgent and unexpected work. However, when this happens, instead of having a breakdown (we’ve all been through it!), it’s best to add the new task to your list in the most appropriate ranking – and then carry on working using the Key #3 method.