Set Your Priorities

Improve your prioritisation skills

Properly managing your time and getting things done before the end of a deadline isn’t really about how much time you have at your disposal. Rather, it’s more about how you organise your tasks in an appropriate order without letting other matters interfere with your set schedule. This process of properly scheduling tasks and sticking with that schedule is referred to as Prioritisation.

A lady at work trying to remain calm

Most people possess prioritisation skills to a degree but are either negligent with it or don’t use it to its full advantage. For example, some people prioritise checking their social media feeds before revising their workload for the day, while others prioritise paying for their magazine subscriptions before settling their electricity bills. These are both instances of poorly prioritising your affairs because the first instance indicates poor management of time while the second points to poor management of finances.

If you want to prioritise correctly, you have to learn how to be intelligently and rationally selective concerning what should come first in your schedule, what should come second, what others should follow, and yet leave room for a bit of flexibility. By properly prioritising, you are better able to get what needs to be done finished before you run out of resources such as time, materials, finances or anything else.

But while mastering the art of prioritisation, you also need to be aware that life is unpredictable and can throw several curveballs your way in the course of a day. These curveballs might get in the way of you doing the things you should actually be doing when necessary. This is why a bit of flexibility is required when setting up your priorities for a day.

If for some reason you are unconvinced about the benefits of prioritisation in helping you effectively manage your time as well as other resources, let’s move forward by considering what you stand to gain from improving your prioritisation skills.

Benefits of Prioritisation

  1. It takes pressure off you

When your work is properly prioritised and scheduled, you have a systematic approach with which you effectively eliminate tasks or chores from your to-do list. Because you have a game plan you are working with, you are likely to not feel the pressures suffered by a person who tackles a day without a set agenda. By prioritising your activities, you can tackle each one confidently and methodically before moving to the next one. Because you know what comes next and that you have enough time to tackle it, there’s less pressure on you for the duration of that day.

  1. Truly urgent work gets done first and quicker

Because a lot of people fail to prioritise, they end up first performing unimportant tasks that consume their time and resources which leave them stranded or rushed when they finally pick up what’s important. If you prioritise your tasks effectively, you get to deal with tasks that matter the most first and thus free yourself to deal with less pressing matters at a more leisurely time.

  1. Improves quality of work

It’s very rare to find a rushed job that turns out to be the possible best it can be. By prioritising important tasks and dealing with them in a less pressured manner or environment, you can focus on delivering best quality results with your efforts instead of just trying to meet a long overdue deadline.

  1. Job satisfaction will improve.

By prioritising your tasks you will enjoy a sense of satisfaction as you cross each settled item of your to-do list. If by the time the day is over you’ve crossed of everything on your priority list in the order in which you arranged them, you are bound to feel a sense of satisfaction both in your heart and mind because of a job well done. On the other hand, if you fail to prioritise, the only reward your body will likely give you is fatigue and a sigh of relief that the day is finally over. This is because you probably spent your day running pillar to post in a scattered state and unsure of what to do next or how to even get it done.

  1. More free time

By properly planning your day and prioritising your tasks, it’s possible to make free time for yourself at the end of your schedule. This is because you would have likely already dealt with all pressing matters which leaves you free to pursue more mundane work tasks or other interests.

  1. Less work to do

In actuality, it’s not that you have less work to do, but because there is less pressure and stress thanks to having everything dealt with according to the order of their priority, you’ll feel less burdened and more at ease which psychologically translates to you having less work on your plate.

All the above benefits are things you can enjoy through proper time management with the help of prioritisation skills.

But what happens when you fail to prioritise? Are there consequences?

Consequences of poor prioritisation

By failing to properly prioritise and make the best use of your time, you are likely to end up with any or all of the following negative effects.

  1. Increased levels of stress.A stressed man at work

By failing to properly manage your time, your workload might compile leading to you having more work and less time in which to complete them. Even worse, by failing to prioritise important tasks and settle them first, you might find yourself frantic and under immense pressure to fulfil tasks that are long overdue. The stress from this can negatively impact your health leading to conditions such as high blood pressure, ulcers, anxiety attacks, depression, and others.

  1. Sleepless nights

Sleep is very important if you intend on living a happy and healthy life. But how much sleep you are able to get might be negatively affected by your lack of prioritisation skills. By failing to prioritise, you can find yourself during sleeping hours trying to finish jobs you should have finished during the day. Also, the stress of having unfinished worked caused by poor time management can lead to you suffering from insomnia as your body is too keyed up to drift asleep.

  1. Less free time

Poor time management means not only will you have less time to do your job correctly but you’ll also have less time for yourself. This occurs as your work time overlaps with your personal time and you find yourself struggling to get jobs done in what should be your free time. By having less free time, you will have less personal time for yourself and even be unable to spend quality time with your family or friends.

  1. The Decision Dilemma of ”What do I do next?”

Prioritising helps you arrange your activities in the best order in which to get them done. This means you know what to start with, what comes next, and how to end the day. But when your day is not prioritised, you can find yourself often at a loss concerning what to do next. This uncertainty in itself is a time consumer that will leave you with less time to handle the task you finally choose to do.

How to effectively Prioritise

Now that you know the pros and cons of prioritising, the next question is how you can effectively prioritise your tasks. Keep in mind that prioritising isn’t limited to only activities at the workplace but also covers everything that goes on in your life.

Initially, you might feel that several of the tasks you face on a typical day are all top priority tasks when in actual fact they aren’t. If you examine certain tasks more closely, you’ll discover that several of them are actually not that important in the long run and can be downgraded to lesser priority chores. Sometimes, activities personally important to us that we prioritise, such as buying the latest iPhone or watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones, often are not urgent.

By developing efficient prioritizing skills, you’ll be able to identify and finish tasks that are truly important as soon as possible. These are the tasks that might lead to complications or place you in a crisis if not finished as at when they should be. By focusing your attention on them and allotting the proper resources to them when needed, you can enjoy more long term benefits.

The principle of prioritisation can be effectively used to handle both unplanned and planned activities.

When prioritizing unplanned activities, quick decision making is essential because there’s little time to fully analyse the unforeseen circumstance. This is why it is essential to keep your focus on your end goals during such scenarios while depending on your instincts. How effectively you handle such situations is greatly dependent on the clarity of your goals.

Concerning planned activities, such as the ones stated in a to-do list, you grade them according to importance with “A”, “B”, or “C”. If activities that are tagged “A” are the most urgent, clearly “B” activities shouldn’t supersede them and should not be performed until all “A” activities are fully satisfied. If after you are done with “A” tasks and have managed to also finish “B” tasks, you can then allocate whatever time and other resources you have left to “C” tasks.

Also, when setting priorities on a to-do list, be sure to verify if any of the listed tasks ought to be eliminated, downgraded, or if they can even be delegated.

If you follow the process below, you will become better at prioritising tasks based on the right factors and thus be able to go about your days in a much smoother and efficient fashion.

  1. Put down all your tasks for the day in one list.A woman taking notes

By writing down everything that needs to be done in a day, you get a clear vision of what your day will look like as well as avoid leaving anything left undone. The order in which you write the list is important.

  1. Identify and separate urgent tasks from the important ones. Urgent tasks are those that need to be performed immediately while important ones are vital but can still wait. The urgent tasks that will lead to negative consequences if not finished in the next several hours or before the end of the day are the top priority ones.
  2. Assess value of the tasks. The next step is identifying which of your important tasks carries the most value in relation to your job or which will bear the greatest consequence on the outcome of your day. You can determine what tasks fall under this category by determining how many people asides from yourself will be affected by the outcome of a task. Generally speaking, the task that will impact the most people has the most value and should be given more priority.
  3. Organise tasks by how much effort it’ll take to complete them. If there are tasks that seem to have equal priority, check how much time and effort it’ll take to complete each job and give priority to the one that’ll consume the most effort. By doing things this way, you reduce the chances of you being too tired or having resources exhausted by the time you are ready to tackle meatier tasks.
  4. Be flexible and adaptable. Flexibility is important because unforeseen events can crop up and change the whole flow of your day. When this occurs, your priorities can change especially at times when you least expect or want them to. While dealing with tasks whose priority levels have suddenly changed, be careful not to lose sight of your former top level priority tasks.
  5. Know what to cut. There are a limited number of hours in a day. Thus, there’s a possibility that you might not be able to see everything on your list to the end before the day is over. To avoid having a not fully satisfied to-do list by the end of the work day, try cutting out tasks that you are confident can be left for another day and focus on the priorities that you know must be completed before the day ends.

If with the above tips you are still having trouble prioritising effectively, you need not worry because there are various mobile apps you can utilise to become a better manager of your days and tasks.

Prioritisation apps you can use to better your life

The smartphone market is full of various apps that make several aspects of one’s life easier – Including the professional aspects. If you need help prioritising your days effectively, you can easily take advantage of the following apps.

Evernote

If what you need is an app that’ll let you take notes, grab web page clippings and make an effective to-do list, then Evernote is the app for you. With Evernote, you can systematically organize information into notebooks and store them. The free Evernote package provides up to 60MB of information storage space per month but you can pay to unlock the premium service that offers 1GB storage every month.

Google Calendar

If you will enjoy a digital version of a pad and pen, then Google Calendar is the to-do manager for you. It’s effective for managing short-term tasks as well as long term and more complicated ones. Because details you enter are placed right next to your calendar, you can basically see how your entered events will unfold over coming days. This makes Google Calendar as much a to-do manager as a planner. By signing up for a free Google account, you get free and absolute access to Google Calendar’s to-do list.

Springpad

This free app is quite similar to Evernote. Springpad will let you organize information into notebooks and setup schedules. The app is also useful for collaborating on jobs and sharing to-do lists with other Springpad users. You can create either a checklist with your task list or to-do item pages within a notebook.

Todo.ly

This is a web-based task manager that makes use of folders to help you organize your activities. It’s crafted to look like an email inbox that makes it possible for you to prioritize tasks that need to be done before the day is over, as well as tasks for tomorrow or days even further into the future. The folder system is easy to use as long as you ensure to keep things simple. The app can be downloaded for free and be used for free. But you can upgrade to the pro version which opens you to a world of more features as well as unlimited access.

Other notable mentions include; Wunderlist, Catch, Trello, and Basecamp

That’s pretty much all you need to know about enjoying a more organised and prioritised life. All it takes to successfully implement all that you’ve read is your commitment. So go forward today with a true desire to improve your prioritisation skills.