Prioritizing projects when everything is important
Do you know that feeling you get when you first sit down at your desk, and you reflect on your open task list? Your organized thinking is innocent and blissfully ignorant to what lies ahead. Before your cognition kicks in, the list slowly starts to swirl. Rapidly, numbers begin to look like letters, mental columns and rows no longer align, cartoon cats and dogs are friends, and time ceases to remain linear. Ultimately, your brain congeals and what you once perceived as a manageable order of things, turns into a space-time experiment gone horribly wrong (see every episode of Rick and Morty).
So, what do you do when your brain plate is full and feels like the universe keeps piling it on? You create compartments. By dividing your plate up and planning your time, it will help you to give your full attention where it needs to be to make sure that you leave the office on time or close to it. Here are a few prioritization techniques you do to make your workday routine flow.
Create a list
Start with a list of EVERYTHING you need to do. As you move on in the process, you will be able to categorically separate items out, plan for each task/project, and keep everything moving forward.
Go through your EVERYTHING list and clean house. Get rid of those items that have been on your plate for a while and may not be of importance or even beneficial to your team or company’s current situation.
Categorize Based on urgency, begin to categorize each item. A useful tool for this is the Eisenhower Matrix.
- Important and urgent – Items on your list that must be done, like yesterday. Start working on these immediately. This category is meant for things that cannot wait. (Ex: quote generation is not working and sales reps cannot generate any quotes.)
- Not important but urgent – Items that are perceived as critical but when you take a closer look, these projects/tasks are not as critical and shouldn’t be top of mind on your daily priorities list.
- Important but not urgent – These are projects and tasks that are going to consume a lengthy period and need a high level of focus. An effective way to plan for these would be through time blocking on your calendar so you can focus during that time.
- Not important and not urgent – These are tasks that are on your list of things that could wait until you have a moment of time where you feel that you do not have anything to do. Tasks like these are minor and, for the most part, can wait until the rest of your urgent priorities are completed.
The matrix’s organization capabilities will also help you schedule/attend meetings, take the impromptu phone calls, tend to emails, etc. with less logistical confusion.
Time-block Your calendar
As mentioned above, use of the Eisenhower Matrix helps prioritize tasks, but it can also help determine where time blocks are needed. I find Not Important but urgent and Not important and Not urgent items usually require more attention and can be easily forgotten. In addition to safeguarding your schedule, publicly blocking your time lets your team and coworkers know when you will have time to give them your attention.
Be honest with yourself
Only you know how much work you can get done on a given day. Most times, it is ok if things get pushed or reprioritized. While deadlines are important, your brain plate capacity needs to be respected. The above tools should help keep you organized and allow you to complete tasks on a space-time continuum.