How To Prioritise: Top 10 tips
Crossing off those to-do tasks is a very satisfying thing, but the brutal prioritising process that sees fun tasks drop to the bottom and the most hated and difficult tasks rise to the top can be more than a little challenging. If you’re stuck with how to decide what’s important when everything on your list feels crucial, then here’s the Building Legacies top 10 tips to getting organised and prioritised.
Tip 1: Get everything in one place
Suppliers, customers, staff, family, friends…. the demands come flying in at you from all directions and probably end up collected in various locations: saved in your inbox, scribbled on post-it notes, as saved voicemails, and (arguably worst of all) stored mentally in your head. You need to create one list that collects all the tasks in one place. It does not matter where this list is. It can be a paper notebook, a dedicated piece of software, or maybe even stored on your phone.
Tip 2: Scrutinise your task list
Go through your list item by item. When analysing each task, decide what you need (not want) to do with it. When you think about it, you really only have four options:
- Do now: complete the task now.
- Do next: complete it later.
- Do last: clear it from your mind.
- Do never: remove it from your list.
To help, use a priority matrix. You can download a Priority Setting Matrix here (Word version).
Tip 3: Be realistic with the resource of time.
It will take twice as long as you think! Under-estimate how much you can actually do and over-estimate how long each task will take. It’s much better to acknowledge that 5 things will need to wait until tomorrow rather than get frustrated that, at the end of your day, 5 things still remain to be done today.
Tip 4: Block out time
This is another time tip. You know what you need to do, you know how to do it, but it never gets done. If this sounds familiar, then it’s all about the dull but necessary job of diary management. If book-keeping takes one hour a week, then block out that hour each week. If, like me (and probably most of us), you dislike book-keeping, block it out at the start of the day. That way, you’ve prioritised it, it’s done, and you can crack on with the rest of your day unburdened by thoughts of book-keeping. Bonus tip: Colour code different activities or different projects to see at a glance what’s going on.
Tip 5: Set monthly, weekly, and daily goals
Remember the big list from Tip 1 that has everything in one place? Think about breaking that down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. This should not be too difficult as you have already got your big list. Your monthly list is selected from your big list, your weekly list is selected from your monthly list, and your daily list is selected from your weekly list. This way, your daily goals are aligned to your weekly goals, and your weekly goals are aligned to your monthly goals.
Tip 6: Managing deadlines
Many tasks are deadline driven. Deadlines focus the mind on actions aimed at meeting or beating the deadline. When scheduling your tasks give yourself early completion times. If working with others on an activity, send reminders to all regarding completion times. These act as buffers that build in a contingency for unforeseen circumstances and give you the luxury of time for final tweaks.
Tip 7: Dealing with constant interruptions
Try creating a list of the interruptions that happen through the working day. This way, you’ll see where time leakage occurs and the reason why. It’ll be difficult; however, try to do this for your whole working week. The bigger the picture, the better your grasp of the problem. This interruption audit will help you address the key areas that harm your productivity. Is there a pattern? Are there recurring events? If so, when, where, and how often? Who’s involved? How did you react to the situation? How long did it take to get back to the task in hand? By looking at the causes, you can measure the impact of interruptions and plan how to tackle them.
Tip 8: Managing Procrastination
This is another auditing exercise. Consider taking an inventory of jobs that you avoid doing. Scrutinise why you don’t enjoy the task. You may often find that it’s a big task you’re avoiding. If so, break it down into component parts. For example, I decided to write this post one tip each day rather than tackle the whole post in one sitting. If I missed a day, I knew I had to do two the next day to keep on track.
Tip 9: Prioritise what not to do
So far, you’ve prioritised what to do. That’s great! Now consider what not to do by creating a list that you can call ‘THINGS TO BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS’. Try to ensure that some of the findings from Tip 7 are on this list.
Tip 10: Make an action plan
Take all, or at least some, of the above and action plan. Before you know it, you’ll have a strategy! Your action plan will help focus ideas and describe the steps or actions you need to take to achieve certain goals. It will be a document of what you’ll achieve and how you’ll achieve it over a certain period of time. To get started, you can download a Goal Setting Template here (Word version).
Neil Leslie is a Business Growth Manager (BGM) for the Building Legacies programme and specialises in supporting clients who make, create, and innovate.
Neil provides the following areas of support to his Building Legacies clients who want to turn creative capital into actual capital: business planning that turns complex ideas into relatable, fundable stories; financial planning using words, pictures, and numbers; process planning, aligning efficiency with ambition.