How To Prioritize Work? (Ultimate Guide)
Want to learn how to prioritize work?
Prioritizing is all about knowing what to do and when to do it.
But between the tenth ‘urgent’ call from one of your stakeholders and a dozen other different tasks you have lined up for the day, it’s easy to feel disoriented.
Soon, all you can do is drown your to-do list in your fourth cup of morning coffee.
But what if there was a way out?
In this article, we’ll help you understand how to prioritize work projects. We’ll list three methods to prioritize work and highlight the best way for a project manager to implement them.
Ready to learn how to prioritize your work?
Let’s dive in.
How To Prioritize Work: 3 Common Methods
Should you fire through the bullets on your to do list or attend to an urgent task from your team members?
The answer lies in how you prioritize your work.
Here are three methods that’ll help you improve your prioritization skills, order your daily priorities, and achieve work life nirvana:
Task Prioritization Method 1: The Eisenhower Matrix
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a former general and the 34th President of the United States, put it this way:
“The most urgent decisions are rarely the most important ones.”
To that end, he is credited with founding the Eisenhower Matrix.
It’s a quadrant based prioritization technique where you plot each of your tasks into four quadrants according to their urgency:
- Quadrant 1: Urgent/Important (Do It)
- Quadrant 2: Important/Not Urgent (Schedule It)
- Quadrant 3: Urgent/Not Important (Delegate It)
- Quadrant 4: Not Important/Not Urgent (Delete It)
Here’s how to prioritize workload using the priority matrix:
How to prioritize work assignments using the Eisenhower Matrix?
Not every single task has equal weight.
And a specific task you may deem as an urgent and important task (the highest priority) may be considered important/not urgent (the lowest priority) 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 the task with the highest priority.
Instead of only doing what’s next on your high priority list, carve out time each day or week for the urgent and important task and then the important but not urgent tasks.
Check out these Matrix Templates!
Task Prioritization Method 2: Eat The Frog
Is this the latest fad diet? Or the next superfood guaranteed to boost your productivity?
Well, something like that.
Don’t worry. You don’t really have to eat a frog.
If the Eisenhower quadrants seem too serious and you’re just looking to survive each day, eating the frog is another prioritization technique to get things done.
Learn more about these different time management techniques here.
How to prioritize projects at work by eating the frog?
The idea is that if you eat a frog for breakfast, then the rest of your day is a piece of cake.
(We know we’re kinda mixing the 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 we mean: Do the hardest, most important work first.
While it’s often overlooked, start your workday with the hardest but important task, and the rest of it will be much simpler.
Speaking personally, if exercising is what you’re dreading: do that first.
Professionally, if you don’t want to respond to all those emails: do that first.
And if you have enough time, eat the frog for the following day as well!
Each person develops a different system, and it’s okay to change things up over time.
Task Prioritization Method 3: Make Your MITs
I don’t mean that you should go back to college (and a challenging one at that).
MIT = Most Important Thing.
How to prioritize tasks at work using MITs?
Create a list of the three most important tasks you need to finish up that day, and then use the rest of the time to check off the less-intensive 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 immediate attention to the urgent but not important things.
You can tell them that you’re working on a deadline, and then you’ll get back to them based on the task’s priority level.
This leaves their problem as their problem.
And if it’s an urgent task to them, but not an important task overall, then they’ll find a workable solution on their own.
Think of this prioritization technique as delegating.
At the end of the day, even your team members will learn to fight fires themselves.
However, these MIT priority tasks should be separate from your to do list because they’re of high priority and high importance.
But wait, there’s more!
The list of tips on how to prioritize tasks at work is endless.
But we’ve handpicked a few more to help you out.
Some other ways to prioritize work are:
- The ABCDE method: assigning priority to each task, from A to E, in decreasing order of importance
- Master List method: Create a master list, and break it down into a monthly list, weekly list, and daily tasks list or a simple to do list
- Beware of the ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’: calculate estimated effort for each task and change plans if some low priority tasks are taking a disproportionate amount of time and effort
We think that’s enough to fill a best seller titled ‘How to Prioritize Work and Meet Deadlines.’ And trust us, prioritizing tasks is almost as important as winning friends and influencing people 😉
That’s why you don’t want to pick one of these methods and repeat it forever.
You need a reliable plan to prioritize tasks in order of their importance.
Surely, notebooks and pens won’t do the trick on a scale.
What your business needs is a powerful tool to manage project needs head-on.
You need ClickUp.
The Best Way To Prioritize Work: Use ClickUp
At its heart, learning how to prioritize your work is about revamping your entire work style.
And nothing says ‘new style’ like a high performing project management software like ClickUp!
ClickUp is the highest-rated project management tool in the world.
It offers a multitude of features that make prioritization a piece of cake:
1. Delegate easily with 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 project progresses, everyone knows exactly what they’re responsible for, and task prioritization becomes a lot easier.
The best part about assigning comments is that you don’t need to start a new task thread for them. If you assign a comment to someone, it’ll automatically convert to a task for them on their list.
Once they resolve it in the comment thread, the task will get cleared from their task list too!
2. Review different tasks through the day in your Task Tray
With ClickUp’s Task Tray, you can open multiple tasks at once and then minimize them to the bottom of your screen window. Refer back to them quickly while working on other priority tasks, and then close it out when finished.
3. Schedule your tasks with Start and Due Dates
Add a Start Date to focus your assignee’s immediate attention on a single task when it’s needed.
Additionally, all tasks with time-dependent items should be given a clarifying Due Date to ensure that your team knows when to have it ready.
4. Structure your tasks in Lists
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” task List.
5. Create a chain of events with Dependencies
Yes, we know it’s obvious, but Dependencies let you plan out different tasks by letting you know which ones need to be completed first.
Say you’re completing a blog post.
Create tasks in both Spaces but make the items in the image task list dependent on the blog post-task status. That way, your designers know not to start until the main blog post task has reached a status like “Draft Review.”
Want to set up an entire group of tasks that need to bounce off each other before progressing? No problem, ClickUp allows multiple layers of dependency.
This way, your team members know what they should and shouldn’t be working on at any given time!
Hardly any room for procrastination, right?
6. Improve your time management with 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 lets 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. Assign Priorities to tasks
Pick from a list of multiple priorities labels like “Urgent,” “High,” “Normal,” and “Low.”
Don’t read on just yet! This one seems too simple, but combine Priorities with our advanced filtering and sorting to dive down to the most time sensitive and important tasks first.
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 every big or small task in the List view and sort by priority AND due date to simplify task prioritization at any given time!
Still want more features to help you prioritize work tasks?
We’ve got your back!
Here’s what else you get with the ClickUp project management software:
- Dashboards: use a custom dashboard with widgets like Velocity Chart, Burnup Chart, Burndown Chart, and Cumulative Flow Diagram
- Mind Maps: represent your ideas visually with aesthetic Mind Maps
- Multitask Toolbar: clear all your backlog in one single bulk action
- Workflow Automation: automate any recurring task to save time
- Multiple Views: handle your task list in multiple views like List, Board view, and more
- Goals: set short and long term goals like project budget and track each goal in a dashboard widget
- Native Time Tracking: track the duration for every single task right inside ClickUp
- Mobile Apps: stay on top of all your tasks with ClickUp’s powerful Android and iPhone apps
See, there is hope!
You can prioritize your work and get it done today!
It’s so simple anyone can do it.
And they should.
You just have to teach them (and yourself)!
If your team members know 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.
And if you want your team to really become experts at prioritizing: use ClickUp.
Assign tasks, update your progress, and communicate effectively, all in one place. With ClickUp on your side, work life balance is just a click away!
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and get ClickUp for free already!