How To Prioritize Your Work

How To Prioritize Your Work

In a time long ago, we were once burdened by a problem laid upon us by the traditional world of primitive productivity: prioritizing work.

In that world, clients shuffle their needs and new roadblocks demolish your team’s carefully orchestrated paths.

The future becomes an unsolvable, tangled web of tasks, dependencies, and sleepy employees.

I say “once burdened” because if you’re already using ClickUp, you know we don’t live in that traditional world of primitive productivity.

When broken down to fundamentals, the real problem is a simple one, so there must be a simple way to solve it.

Essentially, we need to add the most value with the least effort and make our users or customers the happiest.

I’m going to lay out a few methods I like to use when prioritizing, but really, just keep that one thing in mind (at all times) – your customers.

What do they need?!?

What is the fastest path to making them happy with the information you have?

Method 1: The Time Management Quadrants

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a former general and 34th President of the United States, put it this way:

“The most urgent decisions are rarely the most important ones.”

—Dwight Eisenhower

To that end, he is credited with founding the Eisenhower Matrix, a quadrant based system where you plot each of your tasks into four quadrants:

  • Urgent/Important
  • Urgent/Not Important
  • Important/Not Urgent
  • Not Important/Not Urgent

It looks like this:

Urgent

Not Urgent

Important

  • Deadline to send in deposit for event
  • File for the presentation
  • An embarrassing error on your social media feed
  • Developing a new habit
  • Creating a new strategy

Not Important

  • “Urgent” meetings
  • Other’s demands on your time
  • Obsessively checking Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or other social media
  • Checking out your favorite news sites…again
  • Shopping online

 

How can you prioritize time in the Eisenhower Matrix? 

Not every task has equal weight. And a task you may deem as urgent/important may be considered important/not urgent by someone else.

Yet, you should block out your time specifically for those different types of tasks. Then you can bring the right energy and mindset to each one.

Instead of only doing what’s next on your to-do list, carve out time each day  or week for the urgent/important and then the important/not urgent.

Method 2: Eat A Frog

Don’t really eat a frog. 

But if the quadrants seem too serious and you’re just looking to survive each day, here’s another way of thinking about what to do.

Eat a frog.

The thinking is that if you eat a frog for breakfast then the rest of your day is a piece of cake (not really, I’m kinda mixing my metaphors there).

Fun fact: Most people attribute this idea to Mark Twain, but that’s not toad-ally(!) true. Okay, no more of that.

Here’s what I mean: Do the hardest thing first.

This one is often overlooked. Start your day or workday with that and the rest of it will be much simpler in comparison.

Personally, if exercising is what you’re dreading: do that first.

Professionally, don’t really want to respond to all those emails: do that first.

Each person develops a different system, and it’s okay to change things up over time.

Method 3: Make Your MITs

I don’t mean that you should go back to college (and a difficult one at that).

MIT = Most Important Thing.

Create a list of the three most important things you need to finish up that day, and then use the rest of the time to check off the more shallow work tasks, like your notifications and emails. Josh Kaufman at the Personal MBA has a great write-up on this.

The MITs also give you an easy excuse if your co-workers demand more attention for quadrant three things.

You can tell them that you’re working on a deadline and then you’ll get back to them soon. This leaves their problem as their problem. And if it’s urgent to them, but not important overall, then they’ll find a workable solution on their own.

These tasks should be separate from your to-do list, because they should be of high value and high importance–your quadrant two ideas.

Method 4: Prioritizing With Your Project Management Software

Prioritization can be customizable and happen with your productivity software / project management software platform. ClickUp offers a multitude of tools that solve the priority problem. With these features, you’ll find prioritization a breeze for any situation:

1. Multiple Assignees + Assigned Comments

Big tasks are the hardest to prioritize, especially when they require collaboration from multiple members of your team.

By assigning comments to specific assignees as the group progresses, everyone knows exactly what they’re responsible for.

2. Task Tray

With task tray, you can open multiple tasks at once and then minimize them to the bottom of your screen window. You can refer back to them quickly while working on other tasks, and then close it out when finished.

 

3. Start and Due Dates

Really, all tasks with time-dependent items should be given a clarifying due date. Add a start date to focus your assignee’s attention to the task when it’s needed.

When working with clients, be sure they give you clear timeframes and set task dates to give you redundancy when possible.

4. Hierarchy

Keep tasks that haven’t been approved in a “Backlog” or “Ideas” List so that your team doesn’t start working on ideas that aren’t ready for their expertise.

When a task is ready for your team, move it into an “active” List.

5. Dependencies

Yes, I know it’s obvious, but dependencies let you to plan out your tasks by setting which must be completed first.

Say you’re completing a blog post. You have a Space for your designers which is separate from your content Space. You know your blog post needs to be conceptualized before your designers can start creating images. No problem! Create tasks in both Spaces but make the image tasks dependent on the status of the blog post task. That way, your designers know not to start until the main blog post task has reached a status like “Draft Review.”

Take this one step further by setting up an entire group of tasks that need to bounce off each other before progressing. ClickUp allows multiple layers of dependency.

This way your team knows what they should and shouldn’t be working on at any given time!

6. Time Estimates

Add time estimates to tasks so your assignees know the scale of a task. Giving them an estimate of 10 minutes on a task that seems lengthy let’s them know that they can take shortcuts or alert other members if the task is taking them too long.

ClickUp is also bringing machine learning into the platform to predict when (and by how much) your Time Estimates will be off. This way you can accurately prioritize tasks without relying on your intuition (unless you’re just that good).

7. Priorities

Don’t read on just yet! This one seems too simple, but combine priorities with our advanced filtering and sorting to dive down into what is absolutely the most important.

Save filters that let you see what’s most important and share them with your team so they know what exactly you’re looking at.

View all tasks in all Spaces in List View and sort by priority AND due date to see what’s the absolute top priority task at any given time.

Conclusion

See, there is hope! You can prioritize your work!

This is so simple anyone can do it. And they should. You just have to teach them (and yourself)!

If your team knows how to think about what’s most important to your customers and prioritize well, they will be able to step back at a roadblock and critically determine how to best proceed.

Then all you need to do is teach them communication so that they can explain to you why they made the decision they did.

My bet is that if they’re thinking like the customer, you’re going to agree with their decision.

Think about how much easier your life just became by prioritizing. Ahhh, it’s time for a change.

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