Sometimes it is hard to make sense of your To-Do list. All of the tasks on it are important, and you are not sure which of these important tasks is the most important. The solution can be summed up in one word, prioritisation.
Before starting work on the tasks you have to prioritise them in order of importance. But I hear you asking how do I know which are important and which aren’t?
Evaluate Your Tasks
How do you decide what’s most important? It’s tougher than most people realise. An important task can be defined as those tasks which if not completed will have an impact on you reaching or achieving your goals.
For each item, ask yourself:
- How will this task benefit you?
- Will this task get you closer to your goals or Objectives?
- Will completing this task help you build relationships?
- Who will you let down if you to get the task done?
- How much money will it make you directly or indirectly?
By asking these questions of yourself, you will quickly reveal which tasks should be at or near the top of your list and which can be saved for later. The clearer the benefits of the task the higher it should be on your To-Do list.
Start by putting the most important things at the top and start working your way down. If you don’t get to complete the tasks at the bottom of the list, that is OK, as they are the least important tasks, and you can tackle them tomorrow.
The Basics of Prioritisation
There’s a simple way to prioritise realistically and effectively. Ask yourself, ‘If I only get one thing done today and the rest of the day is a total washout, which one thing should it be?’ Once you choose the one task, move on to the next. If you only get two things done today, what should they be? Continue in this way until your list is nicely prioritised.
An easier but less precise way to prioritise a list is to create categories. Your categories might be something like:
- Must get done today or it’s all over!
- Really should get done today
- Ought to be done today
- Would help if done today
- Doesn’t need to be done today
The wording is up to you. You may also choose to create 3 levels with Level One being most urgent. This way of ranking is easier and more flexible; after all, you’ll get more than one thing done today.
When you get to the end of the day and there are still a few low-priority tasks to complete, let them go but decide exactly when you’ll do them. Choose a day to add them to.
To-Do List or Done List?
Most of us create To-Do lists. A To-Do list is simply your prioritised list of today’s tasks. As you complete each one, you cross them off. Another method is to create a ‘done’ list. Instead of focusing on the things you still have to do today, focus on what you’ve finished. Write down each task as you finish it. This has the powerful psychological effect of showing you everything you’ve gotten done.
You can use a standard daily to-do list with tasks that need to be done each day, but keep it flexible. Your priorities may change from day to day, and even within a day. Your daily priority list gives you a great roadmap to follow so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and don’t have to think (you just do them), but don’t be afraid to change course if it seems appropriate to do so. You can apply the same methods outlined here for prioritising weekly, monthly, yearly and long-term tasks and goals as well.
Till Next Time
The Time Doctor – Mike Gardner