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Published on December 24, 2019

How to Prioritize Work When Everything Seems Important

How to Prioritize Work When Everything Seems Important

Even with all of the advances in modern technology, there are only so many hours in the day to cram in everything that we need to do. A simple “to-do” list doesn’t always cut it, and it’s easy to feel adrift in a sea of tasks without an oar. The key to managing all of the work responsibilities on your plate is prioritization.

In theory, prioritization is pretty simple: write down what you need to do and then start doing it.

Here’s the thing about prioritization though — it’s always changing. Every project manager knows that things come up, fall through, and get moved around. How we adapt to those changes can determine the success or failure of our effectiveness in completing that ever-growing to-do list.

In this article, we’ll look at various ways to help you become a master of time management at work and keep all of those proverbial spinning plates from crashing to the ground.

1. Write out All the Things You Need to Do

Becoming a master of prioritizing will have numerous benefits. You’ll get more done, climb the job ladder faster, and have more free time to enjoy life outside of work. It all starts, though, with making a list of what you need to get done.

Write down the things you need to get done at work today, tomorrow, this week, and this month. Don’t worry about the order — we’ll get to that in a minute — just write down everything.

2. Start by Asking: What’s Really Important Here?

Chances are, you have a pretty full list and that a good deal of them seem like the most important thing or at least top priorities. Some of these tasks may very well be top priorities, but others can probably wait. And they’re going to have to if you’re ever going to tackle the top priorities on your list.

Each priority will fall under: do, defer, delegate, and delete. You don’t necessarily need to assign each priority a label just yet, as there are a few methods to help you cut through the fog.

3. The Triangle of Cost, Scope, and Time

One method that effective project managers use to help with prioritizing tasks on a large-scale project is by looking at each task as an equilateral triangle. Each priority’s side can be measured by its cost (resources needed to complete it), scope (how big the task is) and time (how long it will take to complete). Here’s a graph showing the Triple Constraint, illustrated by the site Project Manager:[1]

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    You may be able to change a particular side of the triangle, perhaps reducing the cost needed to finish it, but it will likely involve altering the scope or deadline.

    Put it to use:

    If a deadline and scope can’t be changed on a task, then perhaps that project takes top priority and compromise will have to be made with cost or the scope of other tasks.

    4. Apply the Eisenhower Matrix

    “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” —President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

    It was out of this quote that the Eisenhower Matrix of prioritization[2] was formed. Remember those do, defer, delegate, and delete labels we mentioned?

    Here’s where they come into play as illustrated in a graph made by James Clear:[3]

      • Urgent & Important = Do. As in, do it now.
      • Important & Not Urgent = Decide. Do it later, and decide when to do it.
      • Urgent & Not Important = Delegate. Give the task to somebody else.
      • Not Important & Not Urgent = Delete. Don’t waste your time on it.

      5. Eat the Frog… Trust Me!

      If you allow procrastination to set in, then everything else will slow down and you’ll accomplish less. Mark Twain advised that if you eat the frog first (that to-do list item you’re avoiding) then the rest of the day will feel like smooth sailing.

      How you start your day can really establish how productive you are. Identifying and knocking out your most important task (MIT) first will set you up for accomplishing everything else.

      6. Make Your Prioritization Precise With the ABCDE Method

      Everything might seem important, but it’s not and there’s a way to find out what is and what isn’t.

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      Look at each item on your list and give it a letter between A and E (with A being the highest priority). Now give each A a number in correspondence with the order you’ll do it in.

      Repeat the process until every task has a letter and a number. You’ll begin to notice with more clarity what really is a top priority and what’s a D2.

      7. Keep Things Realistic

      There’s a good chance that you’re not going to get to every single task on your list at the precise time you would like. Things change and often when you least expect them to, so it’s important to be flexible and realistic with what you can do.

      If you find yourself so busy that you regularly lack the energy to accomplish your work, then you may need to take a closer look at what can be delegated and deleted.

      8. Identify Your 20% Task

      The Pareto principle states that to reach true efficiency and effectiveness nirvana, you should get 80 percent of your results from 20 percent of your effort. This can be easier said than done, but there are some tips you can use to put into practice.

      If you could only accomplish five things what would they be?

      Now take away three of those. What are they?

      Now pick just one.

      That’s an MIT.

      9. Stop Checking Your Email So Often

      You’ve probably heard it before, but when it comes to prioritizing work like a boss, it’s worth mentioning again.

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      Stop checking your email so often. According to a survey of nearly 20,000 working professionals, the most successful ones had a very specific trait in common — they were incredibly good at managing incoming emails.[4] They knew how to filter which emails tied into their highest priorities and that’s what they focused on.

      Besides, don’t make checking emails the first thing to do at work! Here’s why.

      10. Revise and Reevaluate

      Our lives are constantly changing and the stars are never going to always perfectly align for every single thing on your to-do list. Deadlines get pushed around, projects get dropped, and everyday life can get in the way.

      Senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Robert Pozen, recommends looking at your schedule for the next day each night before going to bed and revising and reevaluating your items as necessary.[5]

      11. Make the Most of Modern Technology

      An easy-to-use time management and planning tool can really help with knocking out all those priorities. No matter how busy your life is or how much is on your plate, keeping it all organized is going to be essential for getting most of it done.

      Maybe you’re a Google spreadsheets sort of person or perhaps you want an app with all the bells and whistles. There are plenty of options out there, so find one that works for you and put it to use.

      12. Take a Tip from Warren Buffet

      A big part of shortening the path to reaching those Mount Everest long-term goals is clearing out the clutter that gets in the way.

      Warren Buffet reportedly told his personal pilot to make a list of his top 25 goals.[6] He then told him to circle the five most important. Everything else was to be avoided as these things may have seemingly been important, but not of enough importance to deserve the same energy as the top five.

      13. Are You Delegating? Because You Should Be

      The “delegate” part of the four Ds can be tricky for some people who may not feel comfortable asking for help, but it’s a crucial skill to learn. Your boss may be able to help if you reach out. The intern or new hire may be eager to learn a new aspect of how your business functions. Somebody else on your team may be more skilled at a particular task than you.

      If you learn to become comfortable with delegating certain duties when needed, you’ll accomplish those MITs quicker.

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      Learn how to delegate effectively in this guide: How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide)

      14. The Leaky Boat Conundrum

      Keep in mind when prioritizing those tasks just how valuable your time is. Time spent working towards the wrong priority is wasted time. It’s easy to start a project (the boat), but run into a change that alters its outcome or level of importance (the leak), yet we feel compelled to finish it and find ourselves paddling a sinking boat. Sometimes, the best idea is to move to a new boat rather than fix the leak.

      15. Apply the 5 Whys

      Developed by a Japanese industrialist,[7] this method for determining the importance of a priority is incredibly simple. Here’s the deal:

      Write down the task and why it’s important.

      The fewer times you have to refer back to why the task is important, the more important it is.

      If you need to remind yourself why it’s important numerous times, the benefit of completing the task probably isn’t that great.

      Learn more about the 5 Whys technique here: How to Use the 5 Whys Method to Solve Problems Efficiently

      16. Don’t Let The Bumps Derail You

      There are going to be those days when the frog gets the best of you and everything on your plate looks like an MIT. Everybody has those.

      The important thing for any project manager, entrepreneur, or successful person in general, is going to be consistency when developing and working through that to-list.

      There will be leaky boats and times when there’s nobody to delegate. Take a step back, take a closer look at those work priorities, and stay focused .

      Bottom Line

      We only spend around 40 percent of our workday on primary tasks, with things like checking emails, meetings, and trivial tasks eating up the rest of the day. If you learn how to prioritize effectively, however, you’ll soon find that managing that giant to-do list is easier and finishing those must-do tasks happens quicker!

      More About Time Management

      Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

      Reference

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      Jeremy Diamond

      Jeremy Diamond is a lawyer and entrepreneur. He is the Senior Partner of Diamond and Diamond Lawyers, a national law firm based in Canada

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      Last Updated on October 5, 2020

      10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2020

      10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2020

      The success of our day is largely dependent on the quality of our planning. Not to miss out anything in their to-dos, some people prefer to make a list of upcoming tasks in a notebook, while others have long started using digital technology solutions.

      Calendar applications are some of the main tools that are worth using to organize our life and plan your time carefully.

      Many people have switched to specific tools; however, there are still some who do not use calendars on a daily basis. They may find some applications uncomfortable to use, non-functional, or expensive.

      In this article, we are going to check out the best calendars apps to help you stay organized.

      Before You Download

      As you are no doubt aware, there are all kinds of calendar apps available. Instead of you sifting through the hundreds of them, we’ve handpicked 10 of the best calendar apps you can get. On top of glowing reviews from each one, we’ve considered the following aspects when creating this list:

      • User Interface – How you navigate the app should be smooth and simple. The buttons on the app should be clear, obvious and easy to move through.
      • Synchronization – Whether it’s with other calendar apps or with other apps, syncing apps should be easy and enhance your overall experience with the app.
      • Additional features – Since there are so many options for calendars, many of these apps offer additional features. These features make the apps stand out from the other apps and provide unique experiences to you.

      1. Any.do Calendar

        This calendar has direct integration with Any.Do To-Do List, which gives you a unique tandem of two applications.

        Apart from its extended functionality, Cal Calendar is easy to use. The creation of events is very simple and fast.

        What is more, depending on the name of the event, the application automatically adds contacts and geolocation data to the entry description. You can even import your lists and entries from Any.do.

        Any.do Calendar is a great option for any type of user. It is very convenient and doesn’t overcomplicate the mode of display.

        Another good thing is that this tool is available for free, so you can use it without spending a dime for the software.

        Download Any.do Calendar here!

        2. Google Calendar

          Google Calendar is the official calendar for Android devices that has been tested out by many users around the globe. If you are right now trying to get away from it, consider changing your mind.

          Since this application is installed on most Android devices by default, many users think that there is nothing special in this program. They are wrong.

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          Google has been updating its calendar for quite a few years, and now it comes in Material Design with advanced event features, direct integration into other Google services (for example, supports reminders and Google Now), and comes with Exchange support.

          The program is super easy and will not cost a dime for you. It is a good thing, right?

          Download Google Calendar here.

          3. IRL Event Social Network

             

            One of the most unique apps on this list is the IRL Event Social Network app. As you can guess from the name, the core focus of this app is social networking. Unlike other social media platforms, you can consider this platform to function similar to Meetup.com. It’s a site where you can connect with other people within your area that share a similar interest.

            IRL is that while also providing a convenient calendar for you to schedule events and plan out your day. Though due to it being a secondary focus, you’re lacking a lot of the syncing aspects that other apps have on this list. Regardless, because of this huge social feature, it’s worth considering for those who want to make more connections.

            Download IRL Event Social Network here.

            4. Business Calendar

              Business Calendar is geared towards people who use their calendar for work purposes and business task planning. It offers different modes with wide configuration capabilities.

              The application gives a default view mode by months, and events can be marked in different colors. Display modes/ sorting can be adjusted to your needs (by month, day, year, or events).

              You can also set a multi-day viewing mode to see how things look for the next few days. Scrolling up and down moves you by month, and if you check a few days, they will be shown in a more detailed form.

              The day display mode offers hourly scheduling, and the schedule mode provides a detailed schedule for a single event.

              Business Calendar is a great tool for planning/ scheduling cases, tasks, and events. There is a support for recurring events, which can be set up in just a few clicks.

              Having purchased software, you can use it to import and export other calendars, delete, copy, or move several events at the same time.

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              Android Business Calendar application may seem somewhat chaotic, but it works fine and is easy to work with if you play with it for a while.

              A full version of the application is available for $4.99, but you can also find a free version for the app test drive.

              Download Business Calendar here.

              5. Calendar

                Calendar is a relatively new app. It works as a web app and for both iOS and Android devices. It is an intelligent app that learns your contacts, schedule and tasks. It also helps you schedule and arrange meetings according to your available time slots.

                A good thing about Calendar is that it allows you to sync up with other calendars you use such as Apple Calendar and Google Calendar. And so you can manage all the calendars you have in one place.

                Calendar also gives you analytics of your meetings, giving you a clear picture on how you can improve your time management.

                Download Calendar: Meeting & Scheduling here.

                6. aCalendar

                  aCalendar opens our collection of top 10 calendar applications available on the market today. With its appealing design, easy navigation, and great functionality, it is one of the most popular calendar apps in our list.

                  Some of extra functions include color schemes for each case type (48 colors to choose from), different types of demonstrations, different widgets, moon phases, and much more.

                  Taking into account it functionality, aCalendar is a reliable calendar application that has an easy-to-navigate interface with three display options. Scrolling from side to side allows you to switch between the display modes of the month, week and day.

                  When scrolling down and up, you are moving through the calendar at intervals in accordance with the selected display mode.

                  Apart from its time planning feature, aCalendar synchronizes photos from contact lists or social networks to remind you about birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special dates.

                  The program also supports data transfer through NFC and full-screen widgets, which eases your work with any data.

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                  The program is available for free, but you can also get even more features if you buy the extended version of software for $4.99.

                  Download aCalendar here.

                  7. DigiCal Calendar

                    DigiCal Calendar is very similar to Cal Calendar in the fact that the application focuses on design more than on its functionality. However, this doesn’t mean that the application doesn’t serve the purpose.

                    With this calendar application, you can synchronize all your calendars and view them in different ways.

                    Along with the basic functions, this program comes with support for Google Calendar, Outlook, and includes some unique and interesting features. You can match keywords to the image or set up a dark theme.

                    The app can even show you the weather forecast for three days. There are many other features that deserve the attention of people who really like to use calendar applications.

                    Download DigiCal Calendar here.

                    8. SolCalendar

                      SolCalendar can be called a universal application. It claims to be an all-in-one digital solution having a basic calendar functionality combined with some other advanced features, such as weather forecast for a specific day.

                      The application supports Google Calendar, as well as tasks, widgets, lunar calendar and even Foursquare.

                      Those searching for a calendar application to cover just everything in its functionality, SolCalendar is a program to consider. There are a lot of interesting things in this application; the program does an excellent job working in “all-in-one” mode.

                      Test SolCalendar – the application is available for free. You can test it out without purchasing the service.

                      Download SolCalendar here.

                      9. Today Calendar

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                        Today Calendar is one of the most hip and edgy calendars in our list. The solution was one of the first ones that really embraced Material Design and remains one of the few that adhere to the neat style.

                        The calendar application offers bold colors, simple controls, and great functionality. This is not as heavy an application as many others; it will not eat all the memory of your device.

                        If you are not searching for something complicated and over-functional, Today Calendar is what you need. You can always test the application before paying for it – the program is available for free.

                        Download Today Calendar here.

                        10. Timepage

                          Timepage is an intuitive calendar app that will manage your time in a way that other calendar apps can’t. It offers the same sort of functions that you’d expect from other calendar apps: opportunities to record events, notifications and reminders, weather, and driving duration to a particular event. However, the app goes beyond those functionalities in two ways.

                          The first way is that while the app sends you notifications, it also has reminders for you for what is coming up next. That bit of extra time can allow you to prepare and make adjustments to your day if need be.

                          The second function – which is more important – is the heat map when you go to see the full view of your calendar. This heat map indicates what days you are most busy and other days where you are freer. This heat map provides a quick glance to determine broadly what days are good to add more events and other tasks.

                          Download Timepage here.

                          Our Verdict

                          Searching for the right application to manage your various calendars and plan your busy day can sometimes turn into a streak of obstacles.

                          Most of us need flexible applications that can be easily used to manage our tough schedule. The application should have all necessary time planning functions and be intuitive.

                          Stylish design and limitless compatibility also matter. It is not always easy to find such a program.

                          The above digital calendar solutions fall under the category “worth” of being used. They are modern, multifunctional, easy, and easy. Pick the one you like!

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                          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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