Prioritising things on your to-do list requires focusing on the most important to the least important. It’s a useful skill, whether at home or in the office, as it allows you to tackle the activities in a way that is most effective and ensures that urgent or pressing matters are attended to foremost. If there is still time after completing those tasks, you can dig into the lower level priorities on the list. Prioritizing and organizing your tasks is crucial to your to-do list. It’s important that you only have one list, whether the tasks are personal or for work. Break down your list based on the due dates and the duration of your tasks or projects. If something is due in a week but only takes a day to complete, it may not need to go at the top of your list. If something is due in a week but it’s going to take an entire week to complete, you need to start today and it needs to move to a top priority in your list. Tasks with the shortest time limits will usually hover towards the top of your list.
Preparing the priority to do list:
How do you like to prepare lists? Do you prefer digital list via an app, word processing document or some other similar format? Or, are you someone who is more content with the paper list, such as in a diary, on a notepad or on sheets of paper? Perhaps you like a combination of both. The important thing is that the format works for you in that you will look at it, you will use it and you will rely on it regularly. Note that a digital list can be easier because it’s faster and simpler to reprioritize the to-do’s as priorities change, without crossing things out. On the other hand, rewriting a list by hand can be a great way of mind-to-hand coordination that helps you to both focus on the matters clearly and remember them better. Really, it’s up to your preferred way of list making.
Choose the levels of priority his is fairly basic and the breakdown will depend on what tasks you’re focused on, be they workplace, home life, studies or social/sports/hobby/club related.
- Top priority (to be done within the next few hours or day); break down into urgent/important, semi-urgent/important and somewhat urgent/important.
- Medium priority (to be done within the next few days or week); break down into pressing/essential, needs completion but can wait and somewhat pressing/essential.
- Low priority (to be done within the next few weeks or month); break down into
- Lowest priority (to be done some time but it’s not a big deal if it waits a few weeks or even months).
- Nice but not necessary: Things you’d like to do but that can wait a very long time until there is spare time. For example, clearing out a filing cabinet, rearranging your wardrobe or selling off your old record collection.
- Use numbering to help keep the to-do list in order.
If a task or project has a shorter duration or closer due date, but is much less important, it is less of a priority and should go lower on your list. Putting things that are very important higher on your to-do list ensures that you have time to complete them before moving on to less important or optional tasks or projects. Don’t prioritize based on who gave you the work; fit it based on its importance and urgency for the big picture. Most people don’t take this time, the time to prioritize. They are usually reactive, so make a concerted effort to be proactive. Prioritized notes and lists help with focus and multitasking. Scheduling your priority work for when you have the most energy gains minutes through more effective work.
Learn to rearrange the list as tasks are completed and deadlines draw near:
Each day, reprioritise what is on the list to ensure that the most important matters are always at the top and will be completed first. This requires setting aside five minutes at the beginning of your day to focus on this aspect. It will be five minutes well spent, to ensure that you’re on track and focused on the tasks that matter.
Learn how to determine what is a priority and what is not This may sound obvious but when you are juggling many tasks, it can become a challenge at times, especially when you’re focused across a group of different things in your life, such as work, home life and studies. However, it is doable with a little focus and attention to the details.
Focus first on the things that will cause problems or undesirable consequences if left undone: Consider what will happen if the task is not completed by a certain time, such as missing work or study deadlines or not having ingredients to cook tonight’s meal. Take into consideration other people’s expectations this is important where your input is relied upon by others, such as your boss, your coworkers, your group study buddies or your family. In work especially, you need to find out what expectations others contributing to your work have in terms of deadlines; there may be one single deadline for the work’s completion but lots of interim deadlines to ensure that all coworkers get to see and work on the matter too. This needs to be included in your prioritisation thinking.
What was urgent yesterday may be replaced by something far more urgent today. Learn to demote items that become less important due to circumstances changing and to shift up things that have become more important for the same reason. Rearranging the list must be a regular task, to ensure that the priorities are always in the most helpful order. Learn to shift the priorities as circumstances change.
Once you’ve made your list, don’t forget to look at it. As thoroughly as you plan what to buy, who to call, or where to stop on the way home, you won’t do any of it unless you remember to use the list’s you’ve made.