When those open tabs just keep piling up in your browser and in your brain, your to-do list can feel quite overwhelming. Luckily, we’re glad to share some helpful tips about how to prioritize tasks for your business, as well as for your employees. Yes, compiling a task list and devising a plan do add more work to your plate, but it’s worth it; putting effort into proper time management and prioritizing your tasks will eventually help you save time and get the job done.
Step 1: Write down a complete list of all your tasks and to-dos, big and small
Take a pen and paper (a notepad in your cloud is also a good choice) and get it all in there – from all the tiny, quick-win assignments that you have to complete, to any huge, high-effort projects that might occupy your mind for much longer. Creating an entire list of all your to-dos is the very first step in prioritizing your tasks. Scanning through that list can seem daunting at first, but hang in there; keep on reading to find out how you can tackle those priority tasks.
Step 2: Break down the bigger projects into smaller tasks
Pay some closer attention to the larger tasks on your master list. In order to prioritize tasks effectively, each of those projects should be broken down into smaller, less intimidating and more manageable to-dos. Although it will make your overall task list seem longer, it helps to clarify what specific actions are required in order to complete these tasks effectively. Trust us, it will feel very satisfying to check so many items off of your list later on.
Step 3: Pick your preferred task prioritization method
Now that you have all your tasks listed in front of you, it’s time to choose how to tackle them. Different task prioritization methods work best for different people. Experiment with different approaches and see which one wins you over. Remember that the key is to find a method that helps you stay organized, maintain your focus, and effectively manage your tasks to achieve your goals efficiently.
One popular approach to prioritize tasks is the ABCDE method. This method involves a systematic approach to organizing and prioritizing tasks based on their importance and urgency.
According to one variation of the ABCDE method, it stands for “Assign, Break down, Categorize, Delegate, and Eliminate.” Here are the steps according to this interpretation:
- Assign your to-dos by identifying the most critical tasks that require immediate attention
- Break down each task into smaller, manageable subtasks
- Categorize the tasks based on their priority levels, such as high, medium, and low
- Delegate tasks (if possible) that can be handled by others, freeing up your time for more important responsibilities
- Eliminate any tasks that are unnecessary or no longer relevant, helping you streamline your workload and increase productivity
Another version of the ABCDE method focuses on the tasks’ ranking, starting with your must-dos and ending with the tasks that you can just forget about. The next paragraphs will show you how it’s done.
Step 4: Rank your tasks according to their importance and value
Organizing your tasks will allow you to focus on high-priority tasks without neglecting others. As mentioned above, one form of the ABCDE method is all about how to order your tasks efficiently. According to motivational speaker Brian Tracy, each task should be categorized as follows:
A – Tasks with high importance and significant consequences
These tasks are crucial to your goals and have significant positive or negative consequences if completed or left undone. If you have several A tasks, you can subrank them as A-1, A-2, A-3 and so forth.
B – Tasks with minor consequences
These tasks are not as important as A tasks but still have some degree of significance. They may not directly impact your long-term goals, but they have minor consequences if not completed.
C – Tasks with no consequences
These tasks have no significant positive or negative consequences if left undone. They are generally less important and can be deferred or eliminated without affecting your goals.
D – Tasks that can be delegated
These are tasks that can be assigned to others without compromising their quality or completion. Delegating tasks allows you to focus on more critical responsibilities.
E – Tasks to eliminate
These tasks are unnecessary or of low value, and can be eliminated from your to-do list altogether. Eliminating such tasks frees up your time and resources for more important activities.
Step 5: Schedule your tasks according to their ranking
After you figure out which tasks are most important and urgent, it’s time to focus on some good ol’ time management. First, mark in your calendar when you’re going to work on your most pressing and urgent tasks. Assign yourself realistic goals with reasonable deadlines, and try to avoid multitasking. Order your tasks and make sure to allocate enough time to get those high-impact assignments completed. Afterwards go ahead and include your lower-consequences tasks in your work schedule as well.
In addition, while locking several hours for a time-sensitive project might be necessary sometimes, dividing your schedule into short chunks of time for broken down tasks might be more effective.
Step 6: Tackle your most high-impact tasks first
Another useful time management and project management tip is to tackle your most high-impact tasks first. It’s essential to avoid getting caught up in low-priority tasks that can easily consume time without yielding significant results. This is also supported by the Pareto Principle.
Also known as the 80/20 rule, this concept suggests that roughly 80% of the outcome or results come from 20% of the input or effort. When it comes to prioritizing tasks, the Pareto Principle can be applied by focusing on the most critical and impactful activities that will yield the greatest results. Essentially, if you are able to identify and concentrate on the 20% of tasks that will generate 80% of the desired outcome or progress, you can maximize your productivity and achieve the most substantial results within a given timeframe.
Step 7: Avoid competing priorities
Avoiding competing priorities can be challenging. This is why you should carefully consider which tasks to rank as the most important and highest in impact, versus those that have somewhat lower consequences.
This is why you should also pay close attention to your schedule. Be mindful of what you can realistically accomplish within a given timeframe. Avoid overcommitting yourself and spreading your efforts too thin. Setting realistic goals ensures that you can devote sufficient attention to each task without feeling overwhelmed. By assigning dedicated time slots to different activities, you can avoid conflicting priorities and maintain a sense of focus.
Step 8: Solotask, rather than multitask
While multitasking may seem like an efficient way to handle multiple tasks simultaneously, and it gets all the praise, it can actually be counterproductive and it might negatively impact your work. As stated above, allocating specific time slots to specific tasks will ultimately increase your productivity and focus. Checking off your list one assignment at a time makes work feel less stressful and intimidating, and helps you allocate the appropriate attention to each and every detail.
Studies have shown that shifting between tasks and dividing your attention can lead to a decrease in overall productivity. “Switch-tasking” essentially makes you focus on one task, then refocus on the other, then change your focus again, which can be quite draining. It can lower performance time, problem solving skills and creativity, and increase mental fatigue and mistake rate. When you try to focus on multiple tasks at once, your attention becomes fragmented, and you may end up making more mistakes or taking longer to complete each task as the switching time adds up. Therefore, paradoxically, by focusing on one task until completion, you can work more efficiently and save time.
Step 9: Constantly review and be realistic of what you can (and cannot) get done
Constantly reviewing and being realistic about what you can or cannot get done is crucial for effective task prioritization. Regularly reviewing your tasks allows you to maintain a clear understanding of what needs to be done. It helps you stay aware of upcoming deadlines, commitments, and the overall workload. By having a comprehensive view of your tasks, you can make more informed decisions about how to prioritize them effectively.
Take into consideration that business goals might shift, in which case you should also re-prioritize your tasks accordingly. Unforeseen market shifts, a big new opportunity coming your way, budget-cuts – don’t let those changes catch you off guard. You can respond and take necessary action to match your task priorities to new trends and situations.
Last but not least, practice makes perfect. Regularly reviewing the way you prioritize tasks allows you to refine your approach and continually optimize your productivity. By reflecting on completed tasks, you can assess the effectiveness of your prioritization decisions and make adjustments for future tasks. This iterative process helps you learn from experience, improve your decision-making, and hone your task management skills over time.
Step 10: Be flexible and be adaptable
As you work through your list, remember to reassess and adjust the rankings as needed. Some tasks may evolve or change in priority as new information or deadlines arise. Moreover, flexibility in time management enables you to optimize your productivity in the workplace. By recognizing that not everything will go according to plan, you can build in buffers and allocate time for unforeseen tasks or interruptions.
Step 11: Be a team player whenever possible (and delegate)
Sometimes you might feel like you’re carrying the whole world (or business) on your shoulders. In that case, remember that you can enjoy the benefits of being part of a professional team. Even if you’re a freelancer, you should consider outsourcing some tasks, or taking advantage of business partnerships and your growing network to get your job done.
As described in the ABCDE method, delegating tasks is part of the prioritization process. As a manager, one of the important leadership skills is delegation. Even if you don’t manage other employees at work, functioning as a team contributes to the company’s overall success. By delegating tasks, you distribute responsibility among committed team members, leveraging their skills and expertise.
Not only does this lighten your workload, but it also empowers others to take ownership and contribute to the success of the project or organization. Delegation fosters a sense of trust and collaboration within the team, allowing each member to showcase their abilities and grow professionally. It also enables you to focus on higher-level tasks that require your specific expertise, leading to improved overall productivity and the accomplishment of goals in a timely manner.
Step 12: Work from a location that will help you get the work done
Getting the work done is not just about when; it’s also about how and where. Some people work best from home, others from the office. Some feel the need to be in a familiar environment, while others thrive with a change of scenery. One thing is for sure – where a person works does affect the outcome of their work.
When choosing where to work, opt for a place where you can both concentrate, as well as get your creative juices flowing. A flexible workspace such as Mindspace provides the solution. The inspiring art and luxurious design fill workers with ideas and creativity. At the same time, a plug-and-play coworking setup, along with an option to sit in a private one-on-one booth or renting a private office for the day, allow for focus and productivity.
The best part is that there’s no minimum commitment. Getting a day pass for any of our locations worldwide is the fastest way to get an on-demand desk to get your priority tasks completed, while you enjoy the many wonderful perks and amenities, including unlimited delicious coffee, networking events and wellbeing classes.
Step 13: Take advantage of project management tools
Project management softwares can be incredibly helpful to prioritize tasks effectively. At Mindspace, for example, we use monday.com, where we easily manage task prioritization in one platform. This tool allows us to list all our to-dos, rank them according to their importance and urgency, set deadlines, collaborate with the rest of the team and delegate tasks when needed. It also enables us to review our tasks, mark what’s done, and edit and reassign as necessary.
Quick tips for effective task prioritization
To sum it all up, here are some quick tips for an effective project management at work and to prioritize your to-dos:
- Create a list of all of your tasks; break them down into smaller tasks when necessary
- Choose a prioritization method, such as the ABCDE method
- Rank your tasks according to their importance and impact
- Start with your highest consequence tasks first, applying the Pareto Principle
- Avoid multitasking and competing priorities
- Keep reviewing and be flexible
- Collaborate with your team and delegate tasks
At the end of the day, an efficient task prioritization for your business and your employees supports the growth of your company, as well as enables you to find a healthy work-life balance. Having the flexibility to reassign priorities to your tasks and evaluate your work is a valuable skill to help you in this process, while working at a flexible space like Mindspace Williamsburg in New York or Mindspace Shoreditch in London provides the optimal setup for it.