How to prioritise your workload when everything is a priority

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Story of our lives, right? It’s easy to make a to do list, but when every ‘to do’ is as important as the next, and your boss (or yourself, depending on who is doing the demanding) is layering on the tasks, it can be difficult to know where to begin, especially when everything is a priority.

Well, you have to start somewhere. And even if you end up staring at your list for five minutes doing absolutely nothing, you’ll eventually have to begin ticking those tasks off your list. Here are five ways to prioritise your priorities in a manageable fashion – and yes, it is doable.

  • Make a List: First thing in the morning, whether it is your own personal jobs or your jobs at work, take fifteen minutes and write down everything that needs to get done that day. Once you have everything down, separate the items into urgent vs. non-urgent in order to determine the top priorities for that day. If you’re being told they’re all important, don’t be afraid to ask your boss what the priorities really are. It’s more impressive to tell your boss it’s not possible to get everything done and that you need more information to prioritise your workload, then letting it go and letting it all heap on top of you.
  • Assess the task’s true value: Completing certain tasks will offer more benefit than others. If a job for an external client is more important than internal, then make them a priority. If unsure, don’t be afraid, again, to ask.
  • Be honest with yourself. When you’re busy creating your list of priorities, be realistic about your abilities. Don’t set your targets too high and believe in yourself at the same time. There is a difference. Setting unattainable goals will only cause disappointment down the road.
  • Be Flexible: To be able to effectively prioritize, you must be able to deal with changing priorities.
  • Set yourself deadlines: This one can be difficult but a little practice will go a long way. Spending too much time on what you deem an important task will cause other tasks to suffer. Try and create deadlines (for example, give yourself an hour to answer emails in the morning, and then don’t check them again until after lunch, if they tend to distract you).