What do you do with your ever-growing to-do list? Where do I start? How do I know what to prioritize in my huge list of tasks? Here are five simple solutions that will help with that:
1. Make Your List
The first step on how to prioritize your to-do list… make one! Jot down all the different tasks you need to complete. Try to focus them into one area of your life; make separate lists for work and personal. Don’t mix the two.
Indicate Your Highest Priority Items. Go through each item and mark the tasks that are TOP priority, a nice red dot or a star usually works well. Try to keep this to 5-10 items, you don’t want to mark ALL of your tasks as a high priority.
What tasks should be at the top of your list?
- Think about deadlines: What tasks need to be done today or within the next couple of days? If there is not a deadline, set a personal deadline for yourself and hold to it.
- Think about how these tasks will affect others: Is this blocking my team from completing their work? Will completing this task make someone feel valued and appreciated?
2. Order the Priority Items
Put priority items in order. What needs to be done first out of these “red dot” items? List all your items with the highest priority at the top followed by the rest in sequential order.
*Extra Tip* If you can, try to group together similar items to reduce context shifting. If you have three emails to write that are “red dot” items, number them sequentially. Or if you have two items that need to be done for a specific project put them next to each other to keep yourself organized.
3. When to Get it Done
If you are like many people in the business world, you have a decent number of meetings in your day. What’s nice about this prioritizing approach is that if a meeting ends ten minutes early, you can quickly see the next item on your list. Do I have enough time to make headway on this? If the answer is yes, DO IT!
BUT sometimes you just don’t have time between meetings. Solution: Block time to do your “red dots”. It doesn’t matter how much time, don’t get hung up on that, just block the time and get as much as you can finished during that blocked time. If you need more time, block more in the afternoon or scoot them on to the next day’s list and block time there.
4. What if I have a new item?
What if I have a new item that is high priority? Dot it and put it in your numbered order (you have permission to do halves!) BUT remember the GOLDEN RULE:
If it takes less than three minutes, do it. Don’t prioritize it on your list, just knock it out!
5. Take Breaks
It is so important to prioritize your own mental, spiritual and physical health. Take breaks. Schedule them in your calendar or include them in your list. Make sure you are moving, eating, breathing ;). If a co-worker wants to chat about the weekend when a meeting ends ten minutes early, don’t cut them off because you need to tackle “item 4”. Life isn’t lists, its people :). Make room in your schedule to connect, take a break and enjoy your team.