You thought your day looked clear this morning, but now it’s lunchtime and you have a million things to do. Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. For those of us who succeeded in getting all the work/tasks done, we owe our success to prioritizing. Fortunately, prioritizing isn’t an inherited skill; it’s something that anyone can master to work better each day. Practice the tips below in order to improve your prioritizing skills and to boost personal efficiency.
Mind the Deadlines
The first step to work better: creating a priority system. Know the due date of each project. The items that have the nearest deadlines should be completed first. Say, for example, you need to send an email out by the end of the day, but you also need to write a 10-page report by tomorrow. While you could be tempted to dive into the report, hold off.
Write the email first – the majority of people expect email responses within 12-24 hours – and promptly check it off the list. You can confidently say you’ve completed the day’s duties before shifting all focus onto the paper.
Tackle Simple Tasks Right Away
On a lucky day, some to-do items are really simple – mindless even. These things should be taken care of right away. They won’t take up much time and can be moved past as soon as they’re completed. Plus, if you check them off right away, you don’t run the risk of forgetting about them.
In order to boost work better, have efficiency on the brain at all times. Consider ways to group items to tackle them in ways that make sense, ways that are quicker. Plan ahead, as efficient people do.
If you have two email correspondences that need attention, for example, it may make sense to do both in the same block of time, when you have your computer up in front of you. After completing the two emails, you could head to the gym, followed by the grocery – making a single trip rather than two, particularly if the destinations are close to each other, is simply efficient.
Make a Checklist
If you’re struggling with prioritizing tasks, you probably already make lists to keep from forgetting things or losing your mind. Include these things to better every to-do list:
- Minor but necessary tasks – Eating meals and showering might not fall under urgent matters, but they’re things that need done and they take up time. Include them on your lists to better gauge the time you have available to complete other tasks.
- Major/unique tasks – These are the items you’re probably already listing: special work assignments, filling out your child’s school forms, buying a particular item at the store, etc. Continue to document these to ensure they’re completed.
- Deadlines – For those major or unique tasks, make note of when they’re due. This will help when deciding which items you should tackle first – and make sure you get them done on time.
- Importance – Use symbols – stars, exclamation points, etc. – to mark the importance of each item on your list. If you are the only one who can complete the particular task, make note of that as well.
- Personal treat – Your to-do list is filled with required tasks and purchases. Tack on something special for yourself, something you actually want – a caramel espresso, lunch at that new restaurant, etc. – as a means of keeping your sanity.
Check off every item as you complete it, as this will fill you with a sense of accomplishment.
Ask for Assistance
Delegating tasks, when possible, is a great thing. Say your friend is running out for lunch and you’re swamped with work but are also totally starving – ask if she’ll pick something up for you. If a co-worker is capable of fulfilling some of your less-important duties, use her as a resource. You can create some nice open slots in your schedule when you use outsourcing to save time. Don’t be too proud/scared/timid to ask for help when you need it.
Put all these tips to action and take control of that to-do list.