Why Learning to Prioritize Should be At the Top of Everyone’s To-Do List

Published Wednesday, March 31, 2010 9:09 AM

It is a familiar scenario. On any given work day, multiple projects and tasks come across our desks labeled "Top priority." We then go home to the embrace of family members who need X or Y right away and the cold stare of a pile of bills that are (almost) past due. With so many contenders competing for top spot on our daily to-do list, it is no wonder that we end up feeling stressed and burned out.

To de-stress and rekindle the flame of enthusiasm for our professional and home lives, we need to learn to prioritize. While making the best use of our time and resources might seem like a tall order, prioritization is a skill we all can master a step at a time.

As this MindTools article points out, you can start prioritizing based on one of three factors:

  • Value or profitability - Whether it involves a sophisticated valuation or a subjective guess, this is one of the more common, and rational, approaches to prioritizing projects and tasks
  • Time constraints - This approach is useful when others are depending on you to complete a task, especially one that is key to an important project
  • Pressure to complete - Before prioritizing a task or project on this basis, you should consider just how realistic and legitimate the pressure is, regardless of its source

The P.O.S.E.C. method is another practical approach to prioritizing work-life tasks. At its core is the premise that we can better handle whatever comes our way if we first pay attention to our everyday, personal responsibilities. This informative post from project management expert Mark Phillips depicts the method's hierarchical guideline as follows:

  1. Prioritize -Your time and define your tasks by goals.
  2. Organize -Things you have to accomplish regularly to be successful (everyday administrative tasks, attendance/punctuality, workspaces)
  3. Streamline -Things you may not like to do, but have to do (specific project-related tasks you are not keen on)
  4. Economize -Things you should do, or may even like to do, but that are not pressingly urgent (working on projects you enjoy, longer term projects, personal development and learning new skills)
  5. Contributing - By paying attention to the things that make a difference, but do not necessarily have an immediate measurable benefit (added detail, consideration or kindness)

One technique that works for me is at the end of each work day, I make a list of things that I want to accomplish on the next day. This simple activity makes me think about my 'priorities', and in the morning I am ready to attack my list.

We want to hear from you. If you have a practical and proven way of prioritizing, please comment on it here or at our Beyond Folders Facebook page.

by Candie Harris

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