The average employee does several tasks a day, from checking emails to writing reports to attending meetings. Knowing how to prioritize tasks can greatly improve one’s productivity and reduce stress. But not all employees can prioritize efficiently, which can result in missed deadlines and bottlenecks.
If you’re having difficulty tackling your workload and don’t know where to start with your endless list of tasks, these strategies on how to prioritize can help.
1. The Eisenhower Matrix
This technique allows you to discern the urgency and importance of a task. Make the Eisenhower Matrix by drawing two perpendicular lines, with the x-axis representing urgency and the y-axis importance. Then, place each of your tasks according to their rightful place in this matrix. An urgent and important task such as answering your boss’s phone call, for instance, would be in the upper left portion of your diagram. Meanwhile, an important but non-urgent task such as looking for partnership opportunities will be in the lower right.
After labeling which tasks you must do right away (urgent) and which ones bear a lot of weight (important), you can take the following actions:
- Urgent and important tasks – Do as soon as possible.
- Non-urgent but important tasks – Schedule for later.
- Urgent but non-important tasks – Delegate immediately.
- Neither urgent nor important tasks – Drop from your to-do list.
2. The Ivy Lee method
This method helps people be more productive by forcing them to prioritize their goals. Here's how to do it: every night, write down your six most important tasks for the following day according to their order of importance. The next day, begin working on your list one at a time, starting from the top. Only when you finish one task should you move on to the next. Any unfinished business at the end of the workday will be moved to the next day's list of six tasks.
3. The ABCDE method
Prioritizing is deceptively simple, but different tasks with varying levels of importance and urgency can make prioritizing quite tricky. When faced with such a dilemma, the ABCDE method might help.
In this method, you designate every task with two levels of priority. First, go through your list of tasks and give each item a letter from A to E, with A being the highest priority. This allows you to group your A-level (most important) tasks, B-level (less important) tasks, and so on.
Now, evaluate the tasks in each letter group and number them from one to five, with one being the first task you’ll do. For example, if you have three tasks in your A-level group, decide which one you’ll tackle first. That task will have the corresponding code A1. The second priority in the A-level group will have an A2 code, and so on. With the ABCDE method, a task’s true importance becomes much clearer.
4. The “eat the frog” approach
“Eating the frog” means starting the day by tackling the ugliest, slimiest important task on your to-do list. The “frog” refers to the one task you dread doing for the day because of one reason or another, and getting it out of the way can improve your motivation throughout the day. After all, a big win at the start of your day can make all other tasks seem surmountable.
5. The productivity curve approach
Everyone has a unique productivity curve, or the pattern of energy fluctuations throughout the day. This explains why some people have their peak hours in the early morning, while others are most productive at night.
Observe when you feel most refreshed and most lethargic throughout the day. Then, schedule your most grueling and most demanding tasks during the hours when your energy levels are high. Conversely, do no-brainer tasks when your energy levels are low, which for most people is the hour after lunch. This strategy may be unconventional, but it enables you to be continuously productive throughout the day.
Whatever prioritizing method you choose, you can count on SpectrumWise to further boost your productivity by keeping your IT optimized and secure. Download our FREE ebook to learn more about how we can help your business thrive.