An important secret to maximizing your productivity at work or business is to prioritize your to-do list by deciding which tasks are most important.
Now, this is easier said than done. If you’re like me, you often have a long list of things to do in your daily list. And the list keeps growing in leaps and bounds everyday! And you say prioritize? All the items on the list are important (or so they seem): that’s why you have them in there in first place.
But a long, unwieldy to-do list is a recipe for low productivity. Productivity is not about having a long list of things to do; it’s about doing the most important things that are moving you rapidly toward your goals. Hence, the need to prioritize your list.
Put the most important things at the top and start there, working your way down. If you don’t get to the least important tasks at the bottom, it’s alright; you can do them the next day.
Assess Your Tasks
How do you determine what’s most important? This may not be as easy as many people think. Here’s how to start: For each item on your list, ask yourself …
- How does it fit into your short and long-term goals?
- How does it help you build relationships?
- Who is relying on you to get it done?
- How much money does it make you directly or indirectly?
Asking yourself these questions helps to reveal which tasks should be near the top and which can be saved for later. The more clear benefits a task has, the higher it should be on your priority list.
The Basics of Prioritizing
There’s a simple way to prioritize realistically and effectively. Ask yourself, ‘If I only get one thing done today and the rest of the day is a total wash, which one thing should it be?’ Once you choose the one task, move on to the next. If you only get two things done today, what should they be? Continue in this way until your list is nicely prioritized.
An easier but less precise way to prioritize a list is to create categories. Your categories might be something like:
- Must get done today or it’s all over!
- Really should get done today
- Ought to be done today
- Would help if done today
- Doesn’t have to be done today
The wording is up to you. You may also choose to create 3 levels with Level One being most urgent. This way of ranking is easier and more flexible; after all, you’ll get more than one thing done today.
When you get to the end of the day and there are still a few low-priority tasks to complete, let them go but decide exactly when you’ll do them. Choose a day to add them to.
For me, the important thing is not necessarily doing everything on my to-do list, but doing well the most important ones that will give me significant mileage toward fulfilling my goals.
To Do List or Done List?
Most of us create ‘to do’ lists. A to-do list is simply your prioritized list of today’s tasks. As you complete each one, you check it off. Another strategy is to create a ‘done’ list. Instead of focusing on the things you still have to do today, focus on what you’ve finished. Write down each task as you finish it. This has the powerful psychological effect of showing you everything you actually did. It might be an important accountability tool.
You can use a standard daily to-do list with tasks that need to be done each day, but keep it flexible. Your priorities may change from day to day, and even within a day. Your daily priority list gives you a great road-map to follow so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and don’t have to think (you just do them), but don’t be afraid to change course if it seems appropriate to do so. You can apply the same methods outlined here for prioritizing weekly, monthly, yearly and long-term tasks and goals as well.
Apply these simple skills to your planning, and you’ll discover that by always identifying your priorities, you can maximize your productivity.