Prioritizing can be challenging when large, complicated projects that frequently change are involved. Project management software is excellent for tracking tasks for a deadline, but human input still needs prioritization.
Being able to prioritize and manage tasks to hit a deadline in a dynamic work environment is a skill that takes time to master. The value of this skill cannot be disputed—it allows you to make the best use of your time while avoiding time-consuming tasks that return little relative value.
Here is a process for daily task prioritizing and management that can be applied to complex projects with long task lists:
Identify Tasks for the Day.
The process begins by creating a list of what you need to get done or think you can get done that day. It helps to break down large items that can’t be completed in a day into shorter subtasks that requires a day’s effort or less. Don’t worry about the order of the list (that comes next). If you don’t already have a time estimate for each task, come up with one and note it on the list.
Which Tasks Have the Greatest Urgency?
Tasks that need immediate attention should be marked as critical so they can be worked on first. Consider future deadlines as well as items that must be complete before the day ends. Only marking an item as urgent and not working on it immediately will result in serious negative consequences, such as a missed deadline or a holdup of other high-priority work. Avoid making every task equally important. Managers should designate which tasks have the greatest urgency, to help minimize employees working on lower level priorities before higher-level priorities.
Find High-Value Tasks.
Once urgent tasks have been identified, look at the remaining tasks and determine their relative value. This may mean putting customer-related tasks before internal tasks or using some other value-based metric. Another way to identify high-value tasks is to look at the impact of not completing the task that day, such as the number of people who will be affected.
Rank by the Effort Required OR the Value Created.
If it looks like you’ll have time for other tasks after completing the urgent items, look at the high-value tasks on your list. This can be overwhelming if your list is long, so rank the high-value tasks according to your effort estimates. You can then decide if you would rather work on a time-consuming task or complete a short task that can then be crossed off the list. Remember that it can be satisfying to finish at least one task in a day after working on tasks that require more time. Correlating high value with effort is always a wise choice.
Be Ready to Adapt.
It’s great to start the day with a concrete list of tasks, but don’t imagine that you’ll be able to work off your list every day. Review the tasks on your list throughout the day to stay on track, but you also need to be flexible and ready to adapt to surprises, disasters, and changing priorities. By applying the same ranking strategy to new tasks that you did to other tasks on your list, you should be able to prioritize them relative to your existing list.
Recognize Your Limits.
Not being able to get to every task on your daily list is common, especially when an effort estimate varies widely from the actual amount of time required to complete the task. Being realistic about what you can finish as you plan your day can help you from being disappointed about cutting tasks off the list when time runs out. Keep larger goals in mind to stay motivated when your list of tasks seems endless and you don’t feel that you’re making progress.
This process may seem complicated. The reward for mastering it is feeling more focused. You’ll find that spending more of your time on important tasks will make you feel more productive and less reactive. Instead of feeling busy all the time without feeling that much is getting done, learning to prioritize how you spend your time will help you take control of your to-do list.
If you are interested in learning more about how to address prioritization for the success of your team, contact coAmplifi today. Our experts are here to help solve all your daily task management problems!