We all get the feeling sometimes that there are too many things that need our attention at once. You may try to arrange tasks by priority, but then everything feels like a priority at that moment! The truth is that knowing that you need to prioritize is not enough. You must also know HOW to prioritize to be more effective with your larger, more complex projects. For project managers, one of the major challenges is to prioritize the most important tasks correctly. Proper prioritization is a problem everyone encounters, but instead of being overwhelmed, keep in mind that while it’s difficult to skillfully manage multiple priorities and responsibilities, it’s not impossible. Here are some key ways to prioritize when it seems like everything is a priority.
- Identify all your tasks: Before you begin anything else, make a list of all the tasks that are on your plate at the moment. At this point, the order or number of tasks doesn’t matter, just make sure you put everything down. This is to make sure you identify every task – whether pressing or not first and then go on from there.
- Weigh urgency against importance: After prioritizing based on the benefits each task will give, the next step is to decide which tasks are more urgent and weigh them against which ones are more important. Check for tasks that need attention at the moment and which, if posted till later will have more negative consequences.
- Decide how valuable each task is: There will no doubt be some tasks whose benefits will outweigh others. An example is having to choose between a high paying client and an internal office emergency. As long as the internal task doesn’t obstruct the client-related work, the client should come first because posting it till later will have greater financial consequences. Another way to measure value is to check how many other people and activities are impacted by your work. Generally, the more people involved or impacted, the higher the stakes.
- Order tasks based on the resources they will require: If at this point, some tasks still measure equally based on the mentioned criteria, it’s time to prioritize based on effort and resources. If a task will take more time, effort and other resources than others, you can decide to give it a higher priority than the other task(s). On the other hand, you might feel as though you need to clear shorter tasks that take up less time before you can fully focus on the more time-consuming task. Whichever way works for you is the way to go. Just make sure you’re honest with yourself to avoid giving the wrong task a higher priority.
- Be able to adapt: Even when properly prioritized, the consequences of performing a task immediately or posting it till later could change. To prioritize effectively, you must be prepared to deal with changing circumstances and decide on how to prioritize based on these changes.
- Cut off the remainder: Even with the best prioritization, you might still not be able to get to all the tasks on your list. After prioritizing and deciding on the most important tasks that can fit into the time you have, you will have to cut off the remainder and face what can be accomplished. It’s also important to give strict timelines to individual tasks and abide by them. This is to prevent yourself from getting caught up in one task and allowing it eat into the time allotted to others.