As some of you know, I started a new job about a month ago. It’s been great so far, but my list of priorities has grown considerably since my second week! I’ve always prided myself as a great organizer and prioritizer in the past, but I was starting to get a little overwhelmed last week when I looked at the grand scheme of all the things I had to accomplish in a short period of time. Once I got back into the swing of putting my to-do lists together and tackling my tasks one-by-one, I started to feel confident in my abilities all over again. Since this is something that has recently been on my mind a lot, I thought I’d take this week’s blog post to provide some tips on structuring your list of priorities. Before you start, decide if you’re more of a digital or paper person (or both)! If digital, find a program or calendar app that works for you. If paper, invest in a detailed planner of sorts. Since I consider myself to be a little bit of both, I use Outlook on my work PC and iCal on my iPhone to set up digital reminders. My main go-to though, is my detailed planner that I bought from Paper Source. If you are a little old-school like me, investing in a good planner or scheduler is definitely worth it in the long run! Once you figure out what type of system you’ll be using, you can start prioritizing in order of the following categories.Tier 1: Deadlines
In my opinion, deadlines should take obvious priority over anything else. If you have something due tomorrow and another big item due two weeks from now, you want to handle your project for tomorrow first. Hopefully you planned better and don’t have to scramble to complete this task at the last minute, but I know things don’t always go according to plan. Now, some things can have a hard deadline, while other things have general timelines. If your project due in two weeks is your biggest project of the year, while your one due tomorrow can easily be pushed back, then that might be an acceptable exception to the general rule.
Tier 2: Priority
Priority is another critical factor in how you manage your time. If you noticed in the last section, I made an exception to the deadline rule if priority plays that much of a factor. Generally speaking though, I’d try to organize things by deadline first, and then of the things due on the same day, start with whatever takes highest priority. When you’re new to a role or situation, you may not be sure what a high priority versus a low priority task is. The best thing to do in this situation is ask someone who does know. Just like anything else you’ll get this down with time.
Tier 3: Designated Amount of Time
Everyone’s time is valuable, especially when you’re multi-tasking! You may have a project that will take days to complete, and another project that takes 15 minutes. It can be tempting to get the shorter projects out of the way first, since they’re typically less stressful and make you feel like you’ve accomplished something. While I completely understand this way of thinking, at the end of the day you’re being a procrastinator. I say work on your larger project in big chunks, and then try to accomplish the smaller tasks in between. Some people don’t work well this way, but I would argue that it’s one of the more effective methods of getting multiple things done in a short period of time.
Tier 4: Amount of Reliability on Others
This can be a hard thing to estimate, and it can be as equally annoying. Unfortunately, there will be many tasks in your life that will be a group effort. I can hear your virtual moans and groans already. Most of us HATED group projects in school, because the responsible members always got stuck with the work. The only difference when you get older is that the responsible ones are way easier to work with. You will end up having a group-dependent task at some point or another that will impact your work load directly. Instead of panicking, try thinking of a realistic timeline in which you can get your portion done, and plan for unexpected hurdles by coming up with a plan B and C. In order of prioritization, the larger the group, the higher up it should be on your list. The quicker you can try to get your piece of the pie completed, the less people there will be depending on you.
I know not everything is always this cut and dry, but I really hope these tips help you. I had to revaluate what works for me in the last couple of weeks, and these general guidelines have really cut down on my stress while letting me accomplish a ton of things!
Infographic of the Week:
Question of the Week:
How have you handled a high-priority task in the past?