Every one of my team members has a bucket load of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creative tasks or problem-solving tasks. Each one of them has had to learn how to prioritize tasks in order to get everything done.
Despite having many tasks to handle, our team is able to stay focused and creative and work towards our goals consistently in a set amount of time.
I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours in the long run. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize things:
How to Prioritize With the Scales Method
One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.
At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days. All of this was making it impossible for her to develop a good work life balance in the long term.
After she listened to my advice about utilizing the Scales Method, she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:
- She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles.
- She could publish all her articles on time.
- And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!).
If you’re curious how she did it, read on for the step-by-step guide:
1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning
When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.
My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning, but keep it short. 10 or 15 minutes should be adequate to think about your plan.
Use this time to:
- Look at the big picture.
- Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
- Lay out all the tasks you need to do.
2. Align Your Tasks With Your Goal
This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective as you learn how to prioritize.
It works like this:
Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.
By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money, and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.
To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:
Low Cost + High Benefit
Do these tasks first because they’re the simplest ones to complete, but they’ll help you get closer to your goal.
Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve it would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.
High Cost + High Benefit
Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete, and then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.
Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new, diary-free, protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting, aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g. spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).
Low Cost + Low Benefit
When learning how to prioritize time and tasks, this particular combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kinds of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.
These are probably necessary tasks (e.g. routine tasks like checking emails), but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.
High Cost + Low Benefit
Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.
For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there that can make this process instant and seamless.
Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:
After listening to my advice, she broke down the high cost + high benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):
And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only, thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.
Once you’ve effectively analyzed the cost and benefits of your daily tasks, you can dive into this Full Life Planner to make sure you complete everything on your list in the best way possible.
Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks With Deadlines
Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on how to prioritize based on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of setting goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be due dates set by external parties, such as managers and agencies.
In cases like these, I suggest that, after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list in a way that helps you meet deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.
For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.
Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates, so these are urgent and important tasks. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:
Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to prioritize them into a workable order.
The Bottom Line
The Scales Method is different from anything else you’ve tried. By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work and boost your productivity by up to 10 times!
Unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefit. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefit combinations, which can boost your career development overall.
Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be very easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains is that you kick off your next working day by following your new master list.
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Featured photo credit: Scott Graham via unsplash.com