How do you prioritize your work?
From using the snowball method to disciplining yourself, here are ]answers to the question, “How do you prioritize your work?”
- What’s Critical to the Company?
- Practice the 5 Minute Rule
- Set Up Manageable Goals and Learn to Delegate
- Critical First, Always
- Prioritize With ABCDE Method
- Identify Your Resources
- Adopt the 80/20 Pareto Principle
- Establish Benchmarks
- Work Backward
- Prioritize Like a Pro With Gtd
- Work First, Ask Questions Later
- Putting My ‘Frogs’ in Order
- Discipline Yourself
- Use the Snowball Method for Work
- Turn off your Phone Volume
What’s Critical to the Company?
As a CFO, my priorities would likely include a variety of tasks and responsibilities related to financial management and strategy. One tip that I would give to prioritize your work as a CFO would be: prioritize activities that are critical to the company’s short-term and long-term success, and align them with the company’s strategy and goals.
This will help ensure that you are focusing on the most important tasks and making the most impactful contributions to the company.
Practice the 5 Minute Rule
Every day, I create a to-do list outlining the day’s tasks and what I absolutely must complete that day. I typically prioritize it from easiest to most complex to feel accomplished as quickly as possible.
Within this prioritization, in order to best execute each task, I practice the 5-minute rule: if a task takes 5 minutes or less to complete, I do it immediately. You’ll be surprised to find that a number of to-do list items (both personal and professional) take less than 5 minutes to complete (examples include messaging a colleague on Slack, sending a calendar invite, making coffee, reading a daily affirmation).
I’ve been doing this technique for years, and it works for both work and personal responsibilities.
Set Up Manageable Goals and Learn to Delegate
I prioritize my work by setting goals and deadlines, breaking up projects into manageable parts, and using a timer or the Pomodoro technique to help me stay focused.
Additionally, it’s extremely helpful to get organized and create a to-do list, set up systems for tracking progress, and enlist the help of my colleagues with tasks that are less comfortable or time-consuming.
Finally, it’s often helpful to set realistic expectations for myself and to be flexible in order to accommodate changes or unexpected challenges that arise.
Critical First, Always
One tip for prioritizing work is to make a to-do list and organize tasks by level of importance and deadline. Start with the most important and time-sensitive tasks and work your way down the list. This helps ensure that the most critical tasks are completed first and helps prevent procrastination.
Additionally, using tools like the Eisenhower Matrix to classify tasks as urgent or not and important or not can be helpful in prioritizing tasks.
Prioritize With ABCDE Method
Sometimes when I am overwhelmed with work and have to list it based on priority, I assign a letter based on the urgency or importance of each task.
It is called the ABCDE method, where you assign a letter to each task based on its level of importance and urgency.
“A” tasks are the most important and urgent, “B” tasks are important but not urgent, “C” tasks are less important, “D” tasks that can be delegated, and “E” tasks that can be eliminated.
It is quite similar to other methods for creating priorities, but I prefer to do this since it allows me to easily identify which tasks are critical and should be done first. After that, I will assign specific time during the day to start and finish task A, and then progress to another task afterward.
Adopt the 80/20 Pareto Principle
When prioritizing work, it’s essential that you set realistic goals and deadlines that will help you maintain focus and stay on track. Don’t try to accomplish too much in one day and don’t jump from task to task. You’ll end up a busy fool with many tasks started and little to check off at the end of the day. Instead, create disciplined goals that you know can be tackled systematically, without having to work through lunch or stay late.
Even the best-laid plans can be subject to change. Diversions can present themselves. Don’t lose focus, simply reevaluate and adopt the 80/20 Pareto Principle.
The theory of this principle is that, out of your entire to-do list, completing 20% of the tasks listed will yield 80% of your overall likely daily impact. Therefore, to make the highest impact, you should prioritize results-driven tasks first. If the day ends and your to-do list is not yet complete, you can leave knowing that you tackled all the essential jobs.
Finding the right balance when prioritizing small and large projects is essential in a high-volume legal practice. My strategy is to complete quicker tasks as they come into my inbox and establish benchmarks for larger projects.
To keep myself on task, projects don’t leave my desk until they are complete. The file serves as a constant reminder that work remains.
Take a look at everything you have to accomplish and by when. Then work backward to build a timeline for each. Be realistic about all the microtasks necessary to get the project finished and add those to the timeline.
That becomes your to-do list. Using a project management tool can help keep all of this organized and in one place so you know exactly what you have to do each day.
Prioritize Like a Pro With GTD
As a multitasker who is juggling different roles every day, I prefer to follow GTD. For those of you who are hearing this term for the first time, it’s an old personal productivity system developed by David Allen.
The idea of GTD is very simple: We write a task down either on a piece of paper or on a project management tool. From there, we categorize the task by asking ourselves a few questions. These questions include whether it is actionable or not, if it takes less than two minutes, if it involves someone else, or is dependent on a specific day and time.
In case the task takes less than two minutes and can be done by you, you can get to it immediately. If the task is dependent on someone else, you categorize it as “waiting for.” If there are tasks that will take more than two minutes, you create a list of them.
When you have a tangible list of tasks in front of you, it is easy to decide which one deserves most of your attention. It can give structure to your work lifestyle.
Work First, Ask Questions Later
Prioritizing your work above all else is a lifelong philosophy that isn’t attractive to everyone equally. It’s a mindset that is quite challenging to get into if it doesn’t come naturally to you already.
For me, prioritizing work means putting off my non-work-related curiosity until all the tasks for the day are complete. There are many questions that try to get in the way of focus throughout the day because that’s just how life is.
The better you are at ignoring them until the work is over, the more you’ll get done. Did a stray thought just interrupt your flow? Put it on a piece of paper or type it into your smartphone for later consideration.
Putting My ‘Frogs’ in Order
Identifying and completing one challenging task in the morning forces me to put my to-dos in the correct order. And Brian Tracy brilliantly outlines this hack in his book, “Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.”
While there always seems to be more to accomplish on my daily to-do list, looking to “eat the frog” first helps me prioritize what’s most important. And with so many digital distractions in the workspace, it’s critical to set the agenda for those more demanding tasks rather than allowing emails and messages to draw my focus away from solving the needs of our customers.
Simply put, you must be disciplined to prioritize your work; otherwise, it will be very easy to get sidetracked from any given thing at any given moment. Your actions must have a purpose, and you must make the most of the time and resources that are available to you. Make a list of your priorities, and rank them according to your wants and needs.
Ensure that each task is given the proper amount of attention to complete them effectively. Try your best not to waver from your objectives, and gradually train your mind to stick to your plans and remain productive.
Use the Snowball Method for Work
For chronic procrastinators (such as myself), building and maintaining momentum is essential. Without a sense of momentum, productivity declines, and tasks simply get deprioritized in favor of present distractions, resulting in a never-ending to-do list.
The snowball method, originally a concept from personal finance, involves prioritizing the smallest tasks first. Naturally, starting a small task is significantly less daunting than starting a large one, helping to avoid procrastination. Although this may seem counterintuitive, this allows us to rapidly burn through the to-do list, creating a sense of purpose and achievement.
This in turn helps build momentum, creating the titular snowball effect on your motivation.
Turn off your Phone Volume
The important prospect when you need to prioritize work is making sure you are removing as many distractions as possible. Of course, this may not be achievable at all times, but if I know I need to focus on a specific piece of work in a tight deadline, I find simply turning my mobile data off is a very big help.
The same can apply to turning off your phone volume or computer emails and making sure there will be nothing outside of what you are doing that can pull you out of the moment. This allows you to prioritize your work much more clearly and focus on what you are doing – I think we can all admit to reading a message that comes through, and all of a sudden it’s half an hour later because of the back and forth.
It’s not to say that all personal communication needs to always be cut off, but it is important that in those moments you give yourself the best opportunity to prioritize what you need to.
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