The job I started earlier this year has a pretty high work load with lots of short time frames so I’ve been getting good at prioritising at work! Today I thought I’d share some of the tips and techniques I use to stay on top of my work and make sure I get things done on time! I’d love to hear your ideas as well!
Make A List
Pulling together a list of all the tasks you need to get completed is the first step, and it’s an important one. The list should include absolutely everything – big and small – but don’t worry about grouping things or prioritisation at this stage. Get it all down on paper so it’s clear and not reliant on your memory, as that’s often the first thing to go when we’re stressed!
Set Due Dates
Next to each item on your to-do list write down the due date for the item. This will help to determine which items are urgent versus those that are just important, and also pretty clearly indicate which ones are neither. Urgent items should logically go to the top of your priority list, and anything that is neither can go right to the bottom.
Assess Value and Consequences
Within the important tasks it is vital to assess what value they bring, and what the consequences of them not being completed on time might be. This can include things like who assigned the task (it’s better to ask a colleague for an extension than your CEO for example!), whether anyone is reliant on your work in order to complete theirs and how valuable the work is to the broader organisation. Asking yourself those questions can help shuffle items up and down the priority list and make sure you complete things in the best order.
Similar to determining whether anyone is relying on your work to complete theirs, you also need to think about whether there’s anything sequential for your own work. This might mean you complete a less urgent or important task earlier, because without it you, or others, wouldn’t be able to complete things that are important. Most of the time this is obvious, but across teams it usually requires some sharing of priorities and to-do lists so everyone is on the same page.
Work Out Effort Required
Determining the effort and time required to complete a task will help with scheduling your day, particularly if you have to fit your tasks around meetings and the like. Most people suggest knocking off the harder tasks earlier in the day but if you know you work better when you’ve already ticked off a few items on your to-do list then kick things off with some smaller, simpler tasks (as long as they are still urgent and/or important!). I tend to keep the simpler tasks for the afternoon once my brain is well and truly tired, but I’m a morning person so do whatever works for you!
Cut or Delegate
If after you’ve done all of the above you still have far more urgent or important tasks than you will be able to complete then delegate where possible. If you can’t delegate then conversations need to be had about timelines and prioritises with others in your workplace. With the items that are neither urgent or important then I like to put them on a separate list so they aren’t forgotten for future weeks, but also don’t clutter my to-do list for this week. Too many items on to-do lists tend to stress me out!
Stay Flexible and Adaptable
One thing I’ve learned since starting this job is that no matter how well I have set about prioritising my work I also need to stay flexible and adaptable because even more urgent items can drop from the sky at almost no notice. With the nature of my work that isn’t a surprise, so there’s no use trying to be too regimented! Even if things do have to change I know that the bulk of my work has been prioritised, so once I get done with the surprise task I can get straight back in to my original to-do list!