Who has time to do everything on their to-do list in a day, seriously? Have you ever struggled with how to prioritize tasks in the workplace when there are so many tasks that need to be organised? Add on top of this your personal tasks and it’s a recipe for becoming easily overwhelmed!
In this post, we will discuss what prioritization is, some common prioritization methods, and take a look at how to prioritize your work so you can feel confident that you’ll get your tasks done on time and achieve your goals.
- What is prioritization?
- What is the Eisenhower Method?
- How to Prioritize Work
- Quick Prioritization Tips for Work Productivity
- Realistic expectations and productive prioritization
What is prioritization?
Prioritization, put very simply, is the act of ranking or arranging items in order of importance or urgency. How you prioritize your work can directly affect how much you get done in a day/week/month, and failing to prioritize effectively can leave you feeling like you’re not in control.
Prioritizing each day is one of the best ways you can control how much gets done and what kind of output you’re able to deliver. But you ask, “How do I go about prioritizing tasks?”, well it’s actually quite simple, but it will take some practice before feeling completely comfortable with this method of thinking. But first, the Eisenhower method…
What is the Eisenhower Method?
The Eisenhower Method is a simple way of prioritizing tasks based on whether they are urgent or important. This method can be used at work and in your personal life to help you get more done each day so that nothing feels like an overwhelming task!
The image below shows the basic concept of the Eisenhower Method/Matrix and where you would put each task when prioritizing them.
The Eisenhower Method is also known as the Eisenhower Matrix or Eisenhower Box and utilizing this method you can effectively delegate, allocate, and eliminate tasks based on their relative priority or necessity.
How to Prioritize Work
When considering how to prioritize tasks in the workplace it’s important to consider what matters now, what can be done later, what can be done by someone else, and what can be removed entirely.
Our recommended prioritization method uses the Eisenhower matrix to ruthlessly allocate, delegate, and eliminate tasks each day/week/month.
With this method and the below steps, you can be confident to tackle your day!
1. Write down a list of all your tasks into a single list.
This step is important because it helps you to get everything out of your head and onto paper, your computer, or your favourite To-do app. Make sure the list includes all tasks for today and upcoming, whether they be work or personal. You will then go through this list in a moment to perform some necessary prioritization!
For most people, it is best practice to list out all tasks for today as well as all upcoming tasks for the week and potentially the month depending on how busy you are. The more tasks you list out the better you will feel when you get to prioritize them, and you may find quite a few tasks are not necessary.
2. Use the Eisenhower Method to Analyze your list and allocate each task to a box
Use the Eisenhower matrix to determine the priority of each task. This simple four-quadrant grid can help you get a quick overview of how urgent or important your tasks are and then allow you to allocate them accordingly.
Before going through your list, take a moment to write out 4 columns titled, To Do, To Schedule, To Delegate, and To Eliminate. If you choose to use an app I can highly recommend Todoist as it enables the use of a Kanban-style board which makes it super easy to see everything as well as allocate between columns easily.
Next, simply take each item on your list one by one and consider whether it is Urgent (U), Important (I), Not Urgent (NU), or Not Important (NI).
As you go through each item, add it to the respective column.
Urgent & Important = To Do – These tasks need to be done today or in the immediate future.
Important & Not Urgent = To Schedule – These tasks need to be scheduled for the coming days and weeks.
Not Important & Urgent = To Delegate – Get someone to help do these tasks. If personal, perhaps your partner can help, if work-related, get assistance for these tasks on freelance platforms like Fiverr, Upwork etc.
Not Important & Not Urgent = To Eliminate – These tasks are those that you don’t really need to do at all, some might be nice-to-haves. What you can do, is leave tasks on your “To Eliminate” list and check back in on them each month to see if there are any that are relevant anymore, if not, get rid of them.
3. Rank your “Do” tasks in order of priority
Your “To Do” tasks are those that are Urgent AND Important, so they should be completed as soon as is reasonably possible. But how do you go about ranking them?
Well, one simple method is to ask yourself this question: “What if I didn’t complete this task today?” If the answer is, “It would bother me all day and I’d feel terrible” then that task is numero uno, priority 1, Top of the list!
Work your way back from here with each task and rank them according to the level of need to complete. Your daily “To Do” list should ideally only be comprised of between 3-5 main tasks that are accomplishable throughout your day. You want to set yourself up for success, making these tasks achievable means when you do complete them you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.
4. Schedule your “To Schedule” Tasks
Once you have completed your “To Do” list for the day it’s time to move onto your “To Schedule” list. Look at these tasks and allocate a deadline for each.
You may wish to break down larger tasks into subtasks with specific deadlines. This will help you accomplish those tasks that seem overwhelming to start as when you can find 10 minutes here or there to complete one of the subtasks you’re making progress toward your main task.
Using a task management tool such as Todoist makes this process simple as you can specify the deadline for each task and break down larger tasks into subtasks with ease.
You may also want to block out time in your calendar to improve work productivity. For example, you might dedicate time for “focus work” and reserve other times for interruptions such as meetings or phone calls.
Remember to make your deadlines realistic: if a task will take an hour but has been allocated 30 minutes it’s likely not going to get done! Be honest with yourself about how much time a task will take and always overestimate so you have wiggle room if you need it.
Quick Prioritization Tips for Work Productivity
Using the steps above you a great foundation for how to prioritize tasks in the workplace, but what about some quick tips that can help speed up this process? Here you go:
- All tasks in one place – All your tasks, whether personal or work-related should go in one list. If you work from home or for yourself this is even more important! By putting all your tasks in one place you won’t feel like you’re letting either side down and you can accomplish a balance between home and work, ensuring everything that needs to get done is completed on time.
- Clearly define your deadlines – Set yourself up for success by clearly defining your deadlines. How long do you think a task will take? How much time should you set aside each day to complete tasks on your “To Do” list? By answering these questions it makes the process of prioritizing work tasks easier as you have clear guidelines in place to make better judgements about which task to tackle first and what needs to be done by when.
- Remove all distractions and focus – You will find it hard to prioritize let alone complete tasks in the workplace when you are constantly being interrupted by your phone, social media alerts or even other people? Turn off all notifications and tune into what is needed to be done right now. This will improve work productivity tremendously as you’ll see more results from less time spent working!
- Think longer-term – You need to have a goal in mind to effectively prioritize tasks at work. How does completing this task now help you achieve that goal? What is the end result if you accomplish it today, tomorrow or within a certain time frame? How will your life be different once you have completed this task versus not having done so at all? Keep your goal in mind when prioritizing your tasks and eliminate those tasks that don’t help you achieve your goal.
Realistic expectations and productive prioritization
Even if you are a prioritization master, you’re still human and bound by the law of time. Each day, you can only complete a certain number of tasks, and the number you complete will vary based on the length of the task. The most important thing to remember is that sometimes you won’t get things done as you hoped and that’s okay. When this happens you need to re-group and re-prioritize so that you can get those tasks done tomorrow, or over the coming days.
Don’t forget, prioritizing tasks in the workplace is all about ensuring you allocate and spend time on those tasks that are important, those tasks that move you toward your goal. When you do this effectively you’ll know because your goal seems achievable and you can refer back to your completed tasks for assurance that you’re on the right track and getting things done.
Eliminate that which is not necessary, allocate that which needs to be done over the coming days and weeks, and get started start today!
The coronavirus pandemic took the world by storm, and it changed the way we live and connect.
It quickly became a lot more challenging to connect and talk with people, and for many around the globe, it also meant working from home for extended periods of time.
Figuring out how to be productive during quarantine is essential as there are plenty of tempting distractions at home begging for your interest.
Don’t let distractions hold you back from your best work, in this article I’ll provide some core tips and tools you can use to make your day super productive!
Create a dedicated workspace
If you’re serious about wanting to be productive during quarantine, creating a separate workspace at home should at the top of your list.
You want to have a place where you can work without being disturbed. That’s what will help you get your work done and achieve your goals.
It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but if you can, try to establish a workspace separate from your family members so that you can really knuckle down.
Set up your desk with all the things you personally need to make it a productive work environment. Perhaps more importantly, remove all distractions from your desk and workspace in general, this will help you focus.
Use tools to block any distractions
Figuring out how to be productive at home can be difficult. There are lots of distractions, such as family member interruptions, that are harder to stop. However, another distraction comes in the form of social media and other time-wasting applications.
Using blocking or focus related tools and apps will help to ensure you’re focused.
Apps or browser extensions like Freedom, Serene, FocusMe, Keep Me Out, LeechBlock, Cold Turkey, Post Box, Self Control, and so on are ideal if you want to stop any distractions.
Establish a routine
Setting up a regular routine can get you in the mood to focus and to complete your work more productively. For example, before sitting down at your desk you could, open your windows, perform 5 minutes sitting meditation, check your to do-list and organise it, and then turn on your computer. Your routine might be entirely different depending on your job and what works for you; the main idea is to create a routine and stick to it.
Declutter your space
Minimalism has become one of the most popular trends of the last few years and it’s not hard to see why. By removing what is not essential, you can feel free to create and focus on what really matters. It is rewarding to work in a space that’s not full of clutter, that is clean and allows you to focus.
You can start by taking a look at the space you’re working in, picking up each item and determining whether it truly is needed in order to help you get your job done or to bring you joy. Actually there is an entire ‘Minimalist’ movement on items bringing joy by Marie Kondo and enabling Joy at Work.
Be ruthless, if you have an ornament on your desk does it bring you joy? If you have some papers stacked up, what are they for? If you can’t detail why they’re there, or whether they bring you joy, remove them.
Create a plan for your day
In working from home you need to create a plan for your day, infact it is arguably far more important than if you’re at work!
To learn how to be productive during quarantine, you do need to be prepared and focused. That means having a plan is key otherwise you’ll end up just winging it throughout the day.
You don’t want to rush. Instead, you want to identify what you MUST complete during the day. Then you order these tasks based on importance and focus on handling the more challenging tasks first, if possible.
There are plenty of great apps that can help with this but one that stands out when it comes to prioritization and task management is Todoist.
Start learning new skills
When you work from home, it can be challenging to stay productive, and lose motivation to do new things.
That’s why, to be productive during quarantine, you should try to learn new skills whether personal or professional. Personal skills can help you to work more productively in your job and think more deeply.
If you’d prefer to tackle a professional skill, thankfully there are all kinds of online courses, YouTube, etc where you can learn or improve your skills inexpensively.
Establish a workout routine
It can be easy to gain weight when you work from home. One of the best ways to identify how to stay productive during quarantine is to create a workout routine. Apart from helping you lose those extra pounds, exercise is proven to boost productivity. Develop a set of workouts that are suitable for your level. You can start with beginner-level exercises and narrow down from there to more specialized exercises.
The best thing you can do is to try different workouts every day. Variation is important, and it will help you pursue different fitness goals at the same time.
Another good thing you can start doing when you work from home is meditating.
Again, there are a lot of meditation tutorials on YouTube and guidelines on online blogs such as ZenHabits. It all comes down to getting started and then comitting to a meditation routine every day.
Some of the most successful people in the world wake up early in the morning and meditate. The practice of medictation has numerous health benefits not the least of which is de-stressing – which has never been more important.
Taking breaks might sound counter-productive, but it’s precisely the opposite.
It’s essential and healthy to take breaks because this helps boost your focus and energy levels. You feel miserable if you end up not taking breaks, and instead, you work for hours and hours.
You want to focus on taking breaks intentionally, and you’ll definately surely see the difference. You don’t have to take extended breaks either; short breaks can still offer you great results, so get out and switch of during the day.
Improving your diet is also another way to learn how to be productive during quarantine.
The main focus here is that you want to avoid eating fast food or unhealthy foods in general. Instead, you want to focus on eating more veggies, seeds, and nuts.
Refined sugars and junk food shouldn’t be in your fridge at all. That’s especially true if you have a sedentary life in general, and carb heavy meals at lunch-time are what give you that crash around 3pm. Instead of reaching for a coffee, do 5 minutes of quick exercise to perk you up when you start to crash; it seems counterproductive but it really helps!
Dress up, even if you work from home
Many people choose to dress up when they work from home because it imposes a more professional attitude.
Sure, working in your pajamas might sound comfortable, but it doesn’t set a certain work ethic and your mind knows. That’s why dressing up even if no one sees you is very important. It encourages you to maintain a certain work ethic that can help boost your motivation.
Set a specific time for checking emails
If you check every email during the day, that can eat up a lot of time and lower your productivity.
One of the best ways to stay productive during quarantine is to set a time for replying to emails. It’s helpful because you get to be more focused and organized this way.
You don’t have to worry about checking your email every 5 minutes, you reply to everything during your allocated times throughout the day, a little bit in the morning, a little at lunch, and the remainder before you clock off for the day.
Multitasking can be helpful
Since you’re working from home, you can try to complete some home-related tasks while running the laundry, preparing coffee, and so on. This can help you get things done, boost your productivity, and not stress about needing to complete those home tasks at the end of the day.
Establish your work hours
One of the problems, when you work from home, is the fact that it’s too easy to work overtime.
Establishing firm work hours will help you become motivated and more focused, eliminating pesky overtime before it creeps up on you. It will also make it easier to focus more on what you want to do instead of pushing to later in the day or evening.
Use tools that help you save time
There’s a lot of software that you can use to save time. As you will notice below, these tools are well known and easy to use. Many are free, or otherwise have a free trial. It’s a good idea to test out a couple of apps before deciding to jump into one and use it daily.
- Google Drive is a great tool you can use for storing and sharing files. You can also use DropBox or Sync, among many others.
- Using dictation software like Dragon Naturally Speaking is also helpful since you don’t have to write anything; this software does the writing for you.
- A money management tool like Wave or FreshBooks can make it easy to handle your finances and taxes.
- Time trackers like Rescue Time are efficient because you can identify how much time you spend on every task.
- Slack and other tools like this are great if you want to communicate with team members or project leaders regarding a particular project.
- If you are working on a larger project, use tools like Trello to save time, as it’s beneficial.
- Calendar tools like Google Calendar can help you save time and manage your meetings more efficiently.
As you can see, there are various methods you can use to learn how to be productive during quarantine.
It will take some time to fully instill productive practices into your daily routine and its a constant effort, but it pays in spades.
Using these tips and tools will help you boost your productivity and enhance your focus enabling you to reach your potential!