How to Set Clear Priorities When Everything Needs Doing

How to Set Clear Priorities When Everything Needs Doing


When dealing with a demanding workload, it’s easy to become swallowed up by all your “to-dos.” In an effort to get everything done at once, you’re likely to fall short. Unlike The Flash or other superheroes, you have reasonable limits to how much you can accomplish in a single day. Setting clear priorities is essential for ensuring you get the most important tasks done first. You don’t want to hold a checked-off list of mundane accomplishments at day’s end and realize your most critical jobs are still pending.  

Task prioritization is a clever way to make sure you don’t fail to complete your most pressing responsibilities. It’s also a crucial tool for avoiding burnout. Chasing too many tasks at once is a great way to overextend yourself and become overwhelmed. This is especially true if you’re a chronic overachiever who never learns how to recognize and correct priority overload. Protect your psyche and learn how to work smarter instead of harder by setting clear priorities.

Achieve Strategy Alignment

To ensure critical tasks take priority, you must first separate your to-do list items by order of importance. This can be difficult to do professionally, unless you have clear communication with the manager or team initiating your to-do list. You might assume some action items on the list take precedence over others. But management could have a completely different order of priorities. In this situation, achieving strategy alignment can help everyone get on the same page and work toward the same goals.

Strategic alignment is the process of clearly communicating directives through the employee ranks. It also involves assigning pertinent tasks and instructions to the correct individuals or teams. It’s a top-down process of communication that sets clear expectations and priorities on a company-wide basis. It takes the guesswork out of prioritizing daily tasks so teams and individuals can focus on their most critical responsibilities first.

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Use the Priority Matrix

There may be times when everything on your list of responsibilities feels equally important. This is more likely to occur when you’re approaching a deadline, preparing for a product launch, or facing a similarly urgent scenario. Learning how to prioritize when it seems impossible to do so is imperative for your success and your sanity.  The priority matrix is a technique that can help you determine the value of each task. Once you do so, you can prioritize what you focus on first based on its defined value.

The Eisenhower Matrix is one popular example of a priority matrix that works well. To practice this technique, start by drawing a 2-by-2 grid, creating four quadrants. Your most important and urgent tasks go in the top right box, Quadrant I. Less critical responsibilities that don’t need to be done immediately will go into the bottom left box, Quadrant IV.

Focus on finishing Quadrant I tasks first. Once those are under control, shift your attention to Quadrant II. If you can, try to delegate Urgent but Not Important tasks in Quadrant III. Eliminate as many responsibilities as possible that are labeled as Not Urgent and Not Important in Quadrant IV; They’re usually not worth your time.

Develop Delegation Strategies

There may be times when your list of actionable items is full of equally or similarly important responsibilities. If this happens and you know you can’t complete everything within a favorable time period, it’s time to delegate. Delegation isn’t always an easy skill to develop, but it’s one of the most important success strategies for effective management. It involves strategically transferring task-specific responsibilities from one person to another.

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Before delegating, identify which important and urgent responsibilities you can handle yourself. Be realistic about what you can accomplish to avoid overpromising and under-delivering. Next, select which tasks you need to pass off to someone else. Identify the right person for the right job by considering qualifications and experience. Delegating to the wrong person could add to your workload in the long run, if you have to correct their mistakes.

Use Productivity Tools

Setting priorities is all about boosting productivity. If you give every duty on your list of responsibilities the same level of importance, you’ll eventually experience burnout. This is a state of emotional and/or physical exhaustion that can lead to professional stagnation. Anyone who’s experienced burnout knows it is one of the greatest enemies of productivity. But productivity tools and resources can help you work through it to achieve more of your goals.

There are many tools available to help you improve productivity. Some of the best options include downloadable apps to help you organize your time. For instance, apps like Trello, Asana, or Todoist can track how you spend most of your time, so you can make adjustments as needed. They provide a visual representation of to-do list items and deadlines, helping you stay on top of your workload. Keep in mind, you may need to try several different apps until you find one that delivers the best results for your productivity needs.

Take a Breath

Remember, setting priorities isn’t just about getting things done; it’s about working smarter, not harder. By implementing these strategies, you’ll not only enhance your efficiency and productivity but also safeguard your well-being in the process. So take a breath, step back, and use these techniques to navigate the demands of your workload while maintaining your sanity.

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