"Our life is the sum total of all the decisions we make every day, and those decisions are determined by our priorities."
~ Myles Munroe, Author and Leadership Consultant
Do you find yourself juggling multiple tasks and projects, feeling swamped, and not knowing where to start?
Tight deadlines, looming tasks, and heavy workloads can be intimidating. They leave you overwhelmed and stuck, unable to figure out where to begin and ultimately derailing your productivity.
But fret not!
Prioritization is a powerful skill that will help you take control of your workflow and optimize productivity. Breaking your workload into manageable chunks and setting priorities helps you break the cycle of missed deadlines, last-minute rushes, and procrastination.
And task prioritization is simple — rethink how you approach your work and establish a defined process that works for you. Below are seven steps to help you figure out how to prioritize important tasks and maximize productivity.
7 steps for prioritizing your workload
1. Write down all of your tasks
First things first: you need to get all your to-dos out of your head and onto the page — or, in most cases, the screen.
Start by compiling a literal master list of action items that you need to take care of, sorting them based on the following:
Daily tasks: Day-to-day duties, such as meetings, check-ins, and responding to communication.
Weekly tasks: Action items related to client deadlines, presentations, or project milestones.
Month-plus tasks: Tasks related to longer-term projects and goals.
Listing your tasks as individual items immediately makes your workload feel less overwhelming. So much of how to prioritize tasks revolves around knowing what’s actually on your plate.
This is where a tool like Teamwork.com really comes in handy.
For example, our platform makes recording your personal daily tasks a cinch. Don't rack your brain — just mark off your checklist as needed or tag tasks with different priority levels.
What makes Personal Tasks especially handy is that your project tasks are visible to the entire team, right beneath your fully private personal tasks. Ideally, your team-wide tasks should be public, not only for the sake of the organization, but also for accountability.
By using a board view (Kanban board) for your tasks, you can document your schedule and have a clear understanding of deadlines.
2. Determine which tasks are truly important
Not all tasks are equally important. However, it’s human nature to complete the small, easier tasks first, regardless of importance. But did you know that research shows that tackling these easy wins first can actually give us a false sense of progress?
You must fight this completion bias and be conscious of the importance attributed to each task.
How do you achieve this? By distinguishing urgent tasks from important tasks.
Urgent tasks are time sensitive and require immediate attention now, in the next few hours, or by the end of today. You can’t afford to overlook them and risk the consequences of missing deadlines.
Important tasks are not always urgent but must be on your to-do list. You don’t have to execute or complete them today, but you can’t forget them.
Ask yourself these questions to help categorize your tasks:
Who does this impact?: For example, is a task only going to impact you? Your clients? Your department or company?
What is the reward or outcome of completing this task?: A new client contract? More revenue? A project getting done ahead of schedule?
What is the risk of not completing the task?: Lost clients or revenue? Lost progress on a project?
Once you’ve determined each task’s priority level, there are few different approaches you can use to organize and manage them.
Eat the frog: Not as literal as it sounds. This means tackling the most challenging and time-consuming task first. In project management, this task would most likely be listed as “high priority.” You can then slot the remaining tasks based on their deadline, impact, or reward.
Eisenhower matrix: Also called Urgent-Important Matrix, this visualization project management tool classifies each task into four quadrants based on importance and urgency — important and urgent (do now), important but not urgent (schedule), not important but urgent (delegate), and not important and not urgent (eliminate).
ABCDE Method: With this method, you assign alphabetical priority levels to your tasks: A (top priority), B (high priority), C (medium priority), D (low priority), and E (no priority).
Whichever method you choose, proper time management is key to staying productive and organized during your workday.
3. Stick to a schedule that reflects your priority tasks
You probably have a calendar with all of your events and appointments. But what about the tasks you need to complete? Are you planning them according to their priority? Take a moment and look at what you planned for tomorrow. Does it reflect the priority of the work you need to get done?
If not, it’s time to make a schedule reflecting your priority tasks.
Creating and maintaining a schedule is the ultimate way to stay on track and improve work performance. You can anticipate hectic days, block off time for focused work, and set daily reminders to stay on top of your tasks.
Schedule your most important tasks in advance, based on their priority and due dates. Before your workday ends, create a plan for the next day and allocate enough time to focus on each task.
But don’t forget to leave some time for flexibility in your schedule. You can’t anticipate every surprise, so be sure to build in extra breathing room. Have some “me time” to de-stress, relax and go for a walk, or get some fresh air.
You get things done faster when you know exactly what needs to be done and by when, and this is where the right tools come in handy. Teamwork.com makes scheduling and task management a breeze. You can set up reminders and automate tasks so you don’t miss deadlines, while the board and calendar views help you to visualize your tasks and prioritize them according to their level of importance.
4. Tackle your most intense, high-effort tasks first
Highest priority tasks, especially those with tight deadlines, often require more effort, energy, and attention.
Remember “eating the frog”?
Rather than starting your day by checking emails or social media, take a deep dive into your most demanding task first. Tackle it with full focus and energy before moving on to the next one. This way, you can complete the most challenging tasks before your energy level tanks.
Once you start the small tasks, your dopamine levels will rise, and you’ll be tempted to keep doing them. It might be more rewarding in the short term but won’t be beneficial in the long run.
Teamwork.com’s resource allocation features provide a bird’s-eye view of your team’s tasks. You can see what’s keeping your team busy, when they need help, and how far along a task has progressed. You can delete or add tasks, adjust their deadlines, and assign resources accordingly.
5. Focus on one task at a time (hint: try not to multitask)
"Focusing on one thing without interruption is how you get meaningful work done."
~ Nate Green, Author and Marketing Strategist
Multitasking might seem like a smart move, right?
But trying to tick too many tasks off your schedule at once is a recipe for burnout.
As noted by the Cleveland Clinic, only about 2.5% of people can multitask effectively. For the rest of us, juggling a bunch of different responsibilities and tasks everyday results in poor outcomes.
And this makes perfect sense in a workplace setting. If you’re constantly bouncing between apps, documents, and email, chances are you’re getting very little actual work done.
We acknowledge that everyone’s different in terms of productivity. For the sake of staying focused at work, though, we recommend tackling one single task at a time.
6. Acknowledge what you realistically can and can’t get done
This is a straightforward tip but something definitely worth mentioning.
There are only so many hours in the day. If you find yourself stressing out over a menial task or something’s creating a massive mental block, be prepared to either drop it or put it off for tomorrow when you’re fresh.
We’re not saying to neglect your work, but rather, be realistic. Companies and teams today are increasingly sensitive to burnout, and rightfully so.
Granted you’re not impacting the rest of your team’s work or losing clients or direct revenue, give yourself some flexibility.
7. If possible, make prioritizing tasks a team-wide effort
Remember: Your work doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Figuring out how to prioritize tasks doesn’t have to be a solo act. For example, teams today should enable workers to:
Communicate issues or questions over deadlines and assigned tasks
Collaborate and agree upon on deadlines, scope of work, and roles
Get deep work done and focus on tasks uninterrupted
This speaks to the value of having your company communicate within a tool like Teamwork.com. Between our chat app and board review, team members can manage their schedules, stay in touch regarding priority tasks, and ask questions and collaborate as needed.
Prioritize your tasks easily with Teamwork.com
Trying to juggle all the tasks on your plate can feel like a never-ending cycle of chaos. Your work-life balance takes a hit as you try to meet all the looming deadlines.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Teamwork.com is designed to help you and your teams get tasks done on time, stay in sync, and easily manage your workload. With our comprehensive suite of tools, you can create and update tasks, assign work to team members, review progress in real time, and set up notifications so nothing slips through the cracks.
Sign up for a free trial today and see how Teamwork.com can help you prioritize tasks and maximize your team’s productivity.
Task prioritization FAQs
How do you prioritize tasks effectively?
Start by creating a comprehensive task list and identifying deadlines. Assess the importance, urgency, effort, and resources required for each one. Then prioritize your list based on the most urgent tasks, considering dependencies and breaking down complex tasks if necessary. Finally, adapt and reassess priorities regularly, and use project management tools to organize and track progress.
How do you plan and prioritize your workload?
You need to understand your goals and break them down into smaller tasks. From there, you can determine the importance and urgency of tasks, focusing on those that align with your goals and have imminent deadlines. You should also regularly review and adjust your priorities as needed.
How do I create a priority list?
Consider the urgency, effort, and resources required to complete all the tasks on your to-do list. Then order the list based on priority, focusing on high-value and urgent tasks first. You should also regularly revisit and update the list to adapt to changing circumstances.
What is the most important step in prioritizing?
While all the steps in prioritizing tasks are crucial, the most critical step is understanding how each task ranks in relation to your goals and objectives. By assessing the significance of tasks, you can prioritize effectively and ensure your efforts are directed toward activities that align with your overarching priorities.
What is the role of project management software to manage your work priorities?
Project management software plays a crucial role in managing work priorities by providing a centralized platform for task organization, priority setting, deadline management, collaboration, resource allocation, progress tracking, and adaptability. It helps individuals and teams stay organized, prioritize tasks effectively, track progress, and adapt to changes, enhancing productivity and ensuring the timely completion of important work.