Do you ever find yourself telling a friend or colleague that you’re “so busy” whenever they ask how you’re doing? Or that you have a lot on your plate and hardly have any time for yourself? These are common answers to the question: “how are you doing?”
Perhaps you see it as an easy response that doesn’t need much explanation, or you’re in disbelief, wondering where all the time went.
How do you prioritize your work? Its answer hides the key to managing time most efficiently. The reality is that time is precious and waits for no man. Yet, many of us unconsciously squander time away; but when that realization kicks in, it’s often too late, or you have little time left to spare.
In the end, we short-change or fail what we set out to accomplish. But let’s not focus on the time that we have lost. Instead, let’s prioritize and leverage the time that we still have.
Table of Contents
- How Do You Prioritize Your Work And Life?
- What Prioritization Means
- How to Leverage Your Time
- Why Is Prioritizing Important?
- Effective Methods to Prioritize Tasks
- Prioritization Tools
- Final Thoughts
How Do You Prioritize Your Work And Life?
Think about the time when you needed to wake up early. Yet, you spent the night binge-watching a series. You woke up late the next morning, rushed to work, flustered and unprepared for a meeting. Did you really have to finish those episodes? Or could you have slept early?
What about that time you had a deadline, and you spent every night working late? Did you really have to work late? Or could you have finished the project in your regular hours?
You can’t bring back time, but you can do better with the time you have now. You can change your future when you understand what prioritization means. The way you prioritize work can make you do wonders.
Here’s how you can make the best out of your life:
What Prioritization Means
When you’re swamped with tasks, it’s important to stay ahead of them. Prioritization means valuing one task over another and completing the most important task first. Prioritizing can save you a lot of time and energy.
While you may want to finish every task urgently, you should exercise caution. When everything is urgent, everything loses urgency.
Prioritization is among the best time management strategies. With prioritization, you can organize your day better, have extra time to work on bigger tasks, and meet your deadlines. Developing your prioritization skills will help you get more done in less time.
How to Leverage Your Time
Going back to the age-old battle of Quantity versus Quality, which do you think matters more? You don’t need to worry about how much time you have left. Instead, focus on how you’re using it in making more valuable moments.
You can easily multiply or invest in the time that you have now. This way, you’ll reap more returns in the future, instead of merely spending time in the present. One simple way of investing in time is to prioritize. 
This is common knowledge, yet, how many of us intentionally sit down to prioritize daily tasks and responsibilities? How many of us even know how to decide what’s more important?
Why Is Prioritizing Important?
When you prioritize your life, you gain lots of benefits. You start to produce efficiently without stress, which opens up more opportunities giving you more time to do other things.
Prioritizing means doing your tasks the right way. This may not always be the fastest way. But let’s be honest, we can only do much at any given time, so let’s use it wisely.
1. Productivity and Efficiency
Prioritizing your urgent tasks will improve your efficiency and productivity. It will help you gain clarity on your most important tasks and ensure that you devote enough time and attention to complete them successfully.
This strategy improves your focus while reducing overwhelm and distraction. By prioritizing urgent tasks, you’ll get better results in a short period. You need to know your priorities to boost your productivity, performance, and effectiveness.
2. Less Anxiety and Stress
When you know how to prioritize your life, you feel relief. It is exhausting when you’re required to do many tasks in a short period.
Creating a priority list helps in managing these tasks one by one. When the most important tasks are done on time, you feel relaxed. However, if you don’t prioritize, you feel more stressed and become unproductive.
3. More Opportunities
Prioritizing workloads means more focus on the most important tasks. The more you prioritize important tasks, the more you can get better opportunities in the future.
By failing to prioritize your work, you’ll find yourself spending more time on less important tasks. Having a lot to do will prevent you from making the progress you need in your career. Prioritization will increase your effectiveness and performance at work, and have enough time to look for and make the most out of the opportunities available.
Effective Methods to Prioritize Tasks
Now that you’ve learned the importance of prioritization let’s put these things into action and start prioritizing your life.
1. Determine Value
Before you can decide on what to prioritize, you need to know just how important that action is.
Value is what you gain from an action that you take. It’s the benefit you’re getting in return for spending your time. Sometimes, the value is immediate or short term; other times, it‘s only realized in the long term.
So when you invest in time, you’re actually creating future value for the time you put in now. Usually, the benefits are not immediate and will take time to manifest. But once they are realized, they are enjoyed over a long period of time.
2. Reduce Time Expenditures
Time expenditure is time used to create short-term benefits. Once it’s done, it’s gone.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, your brain automatically prioritizes tasks. Some of these tasks can get you close to your goals while others don’t. Outside work, only a few people deliberately plan out and this allows most of us to be driven automatically.
This is what makes you feel busy because most of your actions are not aligned with your goals. We end up spending a lot of our precious time on wasteful time expenditures, and far too little on time investments.
This causes people to be stuck in the same loop, day after day, month after month, and year after year.
By simply determining the value of your daily actions or tasks, you’ll already be intentionally prioritizing at a much more efficient rate. This will not only reduce time expenditure but increase time investments that you’ll be able to use in the near future for much more important areas in your life.
3. Start With Your Intention
Imagine going on a vacation. What is the purpose of this vacation? What do I need for this vacation? You’ll be able to list down tasks or actions like:
- Booking a hotel
- Booking flights
- Land transportation
- Going to attractions
- Making dinner reservations
Once you’ve compiled your list, the next step is to categorize them into 3 criteria.
These are tasks that are critical to achieving the objective and should take top priority for resources and time.
These are important but non-critical tasks and some can be things you can go by without.
These are just optional tasks or actions that don’t affect the outcome of your goal.
4. Quantify Your Tasks
Now that you know how to determine the Value of your actions spent, the next step up to effective Prioritizing would be to quantify your tasks so that you can objectively decide which is more important. This is especially useful when you have multiple items within each Must have, Should have, and Good to have criteria.
Quantifying your tasks by assigning a value will allow you to objectively see the importance, making it easy for you to know which task to work on first. This way, you can be assured that the time and effort that you’ve put into is quality.
5. Use a Master List
You cannot prioritize tasks by keeping them in your head. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is by creating a master list. You can use a project management tool or create it in doc for easy access and updates.
Your master list will help you discover the priorities that align with your big goals.
6. Use the Eisenhower Matrix
With a master list, you can still get confused when it comes to figuring out what you have to do now or later. Most people use the Pareto Principle to solve this. They focus on 20% of the tasks that account for 80% of the results.
However, the Pareto Principle relies on experience. A more effective technique is the Eisenhower Matrix which also utilizes the urgency of tasks. Here’s an example:
- Baby’s needs
- Emergency calls
- Finishing an important project due tomorrow
By using this method, you have to complete important and urgent tasks first and figure out how you’ll complete the other important ones. You can also delegate urgent non-important tasks and eliminate those that are neither important nor urgent.
7. Eat Your Frog
After prioritizing your tasks, you need to come up with the best strategy to complete them successfully.
Effective task prioritization requires effective strategies. When you start your day by tackling the most important task, you’ll feel energetic and inspired to keep on keeping on. Frogs are tasks that you find challenging. And in most cases, they are usually important.
Thanks to rapid technological advancement, you can organize and prioritize your daily tasks with your smartphone or tablet to get things done in less time and achieve your biggest goals. Some of the best prioritization tools include:
This is a great productivity app that will improve your focus by allowing you to save interesting videos, articles, and links to use later. You can save your content directly from other apps or your browser to Pocket.
is one of the best task managers that simplifies your tasks and goals by helping you create an actionable list. The app allows you to share and work with others to boost productivity. It’s available on different platforms. Plus, there’s a free and premium package.
Time management is only one piece of a bigger puzzle of change you can go through to turn your life around and find more fulfillment. Often, when you find yourself going through an obstacle or limitation in life, it’s not just because of one flaw or a one-off decision you made.
It’s often a process and a result of many actions that resulted to where you are now, and so you should go deeper to reflect and see how things can be done differently.
Don't have time for the full article? Read this.
How Do You Prioritize Your Work? Learn to prioritize your time to avoid missing deadlines and unsuccessful tasks. Assign each task a value, and the most important ones should go first. [/actionitem]
Why Is Prioritizing Important? It helps you produce efficiently with less stress and anxiety. Prioritizing also helps open new opportunities along the way. [/actionitem]
Effective Methods to Prioritize Tasks. Use methods like categorizing and quantifying tasks, the Eisenhower Matrix, and Eating Your Frog First to get you started. [/actionitem]
Prioritization Tools. Use mobile and desktop apps like Pocket and Todoist to help you stay organized and create master lists.
Featured photo credit: Marten Bjork via unsplash.com
|||^||Western Journal of Nursing Research: Time Management Strategies for Research Productivity|
|||^||CS Canada: Time Management Practices and Its Effect on Business Performance|
|||^||Oregon State University: 3 Ways to Prioritize|
|||^||Science Direct: Pareto Principle – An Overview|
|||^||Eisenhower: Introducing the Eisenhower Matrix|
|||^||Science Direct: To build efficacy, eat the frog first: People misunderstand how the difficulty-ordering of tasks influences efficacy|