Effective prioritization can help you make the best use of your own efforts and those of your team.
Prioritization is a key skill that you need to make the best use of your own efforts and those of your team.
It helps you allocate your time where it's most needed, freeing you and your team members from tasks that can be addressed later. By knowing how to prioritize you can stay on track with commitments while keeping stress at bay.
When you're planning your day, you need to consider several factors. These include the time you actually have available; your boss's, clients' or team members' needs; and how urgent your task is.
Most people prioritize what they need to do based on each task's urgency and importance – they focus on the most pressing, important jobs first, and do the others once these are complete. Although this is a good start, the reality is that there are sometimes other factors to consider. So using specific prioritization tools can make more sense.
One of these tools is the Action Priority Matrix. This allows you to analyze the value of a task, compared to the effort it will take to complete it. It helps you identify whether jobs are quick wins, major projects, fill-ins, or thankless tasks. From there, you can see which piece of work will give you the best return for your efforts. And you can identify those you should delegate, or save for a day when you have more time.
Another useful prioritization tool is Pareto Analysis. This uses the Pareto Principle – also known as the 80/20 rule – based on the idea that 20 percent of your effort generates 80 percent of results. You can use it to identify the highest-value problems that would make the biggest impact if you solved them.
Prioritization can also be a challenge when you're working in a group, because each team member wants to have a say in what's most important.
In this case, you can use Crawford's Slip Writing Method. You ask everyone to write down the priorities they think are most important on separate pieces of paper. Then, you count the suggestions to identify the most popular, so that you can find out the group's top priorities. This tool is useful because not only does it help a group reach consensus – it's also fair, so everyone will feel that they've had some input.
Knowing how to prioritize your tasks is an essential skill, because all of us have demands on our time and attention. Not being able to manage those demands means that you'll likely spend your days feeling as if you're on a treadmill, trying hard but not achieving much.
You can find out more about these tools, as well as many more prioritization resources, in the article that accompanies this video.