Do You Prioritize Your Work With To-Do Lists?
At a very young age, I would write down items to accomplish on my to-do lists. Whether it was work related or personal in nature, I felt I needed that information as a reference tool. I wanted to know what I had to accomplish and then prioritize these elements. It seemed that the importance of keeping these lists grew as my career and duties expanded. Today, many years into my work career, I still depend on a visual list that I can constantly review to keep me focused. I continually wonder if there is a better way to prioritize my work activities.
All projects need clear priorities. This process, according to LiquidPlanner, is a way of determining the level of importance and urgency of a task. It is a key skill that takes practice to perfect over time. To better prioritize your tasks, collect a list of these tasks. Allocate your time that allows focus on your most important tasks early in the day. Assess the value of these tasks and rank them on your list based upon the most important to least important. Order your tasks by estimated effort to accomplish the tasks. Be flexible and adaptable and plan for the unexpected that interrupts your daily workflow. Know when you need to eliminate items to accomplish as you reset your tasks for another day.
But how do you prioritize work when everything is important? Many individuals get busy during their days without thinking about the importance of activities. A WeWork article noted how it is important to use strategy to evaluate what you need to accomplish each day. Strategies for work priorities include first developing a list that contains all your key tasks at once. Carefully review these comprehensive lists and identify the most important elements on the list by time needed to complete these tasks.
Highlight the list by urgency and prioritize based on urgency and importance. Do the urgent and most important tasks first. Avoid tasks that represent competing priorities. Consider the effort needed to complete tasks and move through minimal tasks quickly. Seek to gain control of your overwhelming list of things to do. Make sure you write your tasks down and be realistic as to what and when you can accomplish each work item.
For many people in the nonprofit sector, everything is important and the work list that grows becomes a major source of stress. A Rescue Time blog emphasizes that mastering prioritization of work can change your life. You need to first capture everything on a master list. Then separate the urgent from important tasks. Rank the daily tasks and set a daily productive tone. Cut out the good enough goals and eliminate tasks with high time value but little return on investment. Seek to make the most of your work hours and strive to prioritize your most important work during your most productive hours. You know when you are at your most productive during a usual day.
The Indeed career guide defines prioritizing as deciding what order tasks should be completed based upon their importance. If you know the order of your work, you will achieve more quality work in less time. To prioritize your work, decide which tasks are the most important. Place your tasks on a calendar. Set specific times to focus on your work. Determine your workday by elements of your job.
You may start your day with emails, then have in-house employee interaction, preserve time for outside calls and time for meetings, which typically utilize a great deal of time. Strive to account for distractions and prioritize one task at a time. Use a scheduling tool and delegate tasks with others if possible. When you can use technology to enhance your job performance, take advantage of that opportunity.
Prioritizing is important, according to a Fellow blog, because it affects how you complete your work and meet deadlines. To reduce stress and gain effectiveness in the workplace, collect a list of all your tasks. Identify urgent versus important tasks and unimportant tasks. Assess the value of each task to your organization. Reorganize your tasks based upon deadlines. Order your daily tasks by the amount of effort and time needed to complete each task.
When you prioritize your tasks, evaluate the intended result of these tasks. It is all about return on investment. Adapt immediately and know when to eliminate items from your to-do list. Move daily tasks to weekly and monthly tasks. By mastering your work priorities over time, you will gain control over your work and be more productive and happier in your job.
A Zapier blog states that checking off items on your work to-do list is easier said than done. Your goal is to complete your tasks through ruthless prioritization. This means consolidating all your tasks into a single source. Then evaluate each task into the categories of do, defer, delegate and delete. Use a priority matrix based upon the matrix designed by Steven Covey. He created a four-quadrant model of urgent and not urgent, important and not important.
Your goal is to place each task into one of those quadrants. Assign each task a priority number based upon importance. Design a prioritized task list for each day. Focus each day on your most important tasks to complete first. If you are struggling to prioritize tasks, pick a single item to accomplish. The Pareto Principle states you tend to get 80 percent of your results from 20 percent of your work. Determine what 20 percent brings home the most return on investment.
You can see from this article that common themes emerge from a variety of research sources. Create a to-do list first. Seek to prioritize your to-do list based upon the most urgent and critical tasks that bring home the most return on investment. Work to perfect this list and your work schedule over time. You only have a limited number of hours in a workday. For the benefit of your career and your nonprofit organization, strive to maximize your efforts on the most important tasks. Prioritizing your focus will reduce your stress and greatly increase your productivity. Do you prioritize your work? If you don’t, the time to change this work habit is now.
F. Duke Haddad, EdD, CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC, and freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 13 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration, master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University in business administration, with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.