5 Tips to Prioritize Time & Tasks
Updated: Oct 7
Are you working from home during this pandemic?
Many of my friends and family are either working from home or furloughed and finding it difficult to prioritize their time. But, this time should be like every other day - set your priorities and get things done! Your priorities may have shifted, but you need to have the motivation to adjust and shift as life does.
So I thought I'd put together 5 of my Tips I used to prioritize time and tasks.
1. First and foremost, you have to have a Productivity Pyramid. This defines your personal values and goals and helps you plan out weekly and daily tasks to reach those goals. Now, even if there are goals that your boss might have, those, and the job that might have something to do with your overall goals, should be aligned with your overall goals. If not, you need to find a way to get the job that aligns to your overall goals. Having said that, I know right now is maybe not the best time to get a new job - so find a way to make your current situation fit into your plan - maybe it's the money you are making from your job that allows you to do other things to reach your goals. Never the less, if you do not have a Productivity Pyramid and overall goals in life, you will have a hard time determining priorities for your daily and weekly tasks.
2. Next, be realistic about the amount of time it will take to complete each task.
I've shown in other posts how you should chunk tasks down into smaller increments, smaller steps, but if you are not realistic on the time it will take to complete, placing tasks on your calendar will do no good. For example, if you have to write a paper on a project and the project was a 6-month project, then 1 hour on your calendar may not cut it. More realistic would be to break down each piece of the project and have each of those scheduled for 1 hour on your calendar. Then, maybe the entire paper has 5 different 1 hour time slots on your calendar. And, don't forget, if you are creating something that might be seen by your boss and/or upper management, you probably want to ask someone on your team to review and provide feedback. You'll then need to schedule more time to make the changes based on the feedback. Bottom line is that if you are not realistic, time management just flies out the door. 3. Schedule time for Preparation. Whether you are leading a meeting or planning a birthday party, you need to schedule time for preparation. Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
I totally agree with that and have found from my experience that I always get better results on projects or in meetings where I have scheduled time to prepare. I hear people say that they "speak better off the cuff" or can "think on the fly," but when you are in charge of something and don't prepare, usually those people (and I have seen it happen many times) end up wasting my time and others. You've probably seen memes and heard people joke about "another conference call that could have been done with an email..." Well, this is so true when the leader of that meeting doesn't prepare. If you're just having a meeting because it's a weekly or monthly meeting on the calendar, it doesn't make sense. If, while preparing, you determine that you do not have anything current to discuss, then send an email asking if anyone else has a specific topic to discuss. If no one has anything, then cancel that session of that meeting. The same goes for personal tasks like planning for a birthday party. If you know that you are holding a party on a specific date, then prepare by placing time on your calendar to do all the things you need to do for that party: Plan the menu, Send out invitations, Shop for Food, Prepare the Food, Buy Party Supplies, etc. If you don't, you'll end up rushing around the day before the party trying to get it all done. And, if you already had tasks on your calendar for that specific day, then those things get postponed or not done. And, if you've ever tried to ask for help, you may have sometimes heard, "Poor planning on your part does not constitute and emergency on mine." So, be the person who prepares and use your time wisely.
4. Schedule time for Follow Up.
Just as we need to schedule time for preparation, we need to schedule time to follow up on tasks that come out of meetings or other projects. Follow up can mean many different things. Personally, with parties, it could be sending out Thank You notes - or sending the list of who gave what gifts to the expectant mother so that she can send the thank you notes. At work, it can be sending out meeting notes and tasks that are delegated to others to complete. And, if you are in charge, you need to schedule time to follow up on those items that were delegated.
5. And last, but certainly not least...Don't forget to schedule time for your Long-Term Priorities (Your Values and Goals). I know we've been talking about breaking up your values and goals into weekly & daily tasks, but if you don't schedule time to reflect and shift as necessary, then you might end up chasing a goal you no longer want. You might have to adjust based on changes in your personal life or in your job. Scheduling this time not only allows you to stay on track, but it shows you have true emotional intelligence. It's the motivation to reach your long-term goals that will help keep control and help keep you on track. Emotional intelligence and motivation to reach your long-term goals will help keep you productive every day in order to reach those goals.
If you'd like more help on prioritizing and time management, I have an Outlook Time Management Mini-course I'd love to have you take for FREE!