When we have too much on our plates and our minds, it is hard to figure out where to start. Do you know how to prioritize your life? We start with a brain dump and get it all out on paper. Next, we need to prioritize our to-do list.
Next up on our 31 days of tips for Working Moms to find Calm in the Chaos of Life series, we discuss where we start honing our prioritizing skills.
Importance of Prioritizing Tasks on your To-Do list
When we have too much on our list, and we don’t know what needs to be done first, well, we don’t know where to start. It is vital to start because we can waste a ton of time jumping back and forth wondering what to do next. That’s why it is so important to prioritize tasks on our to-do list, so we can then go down the list, using our time effectively.
Small Wins First
I tend to think there is a lot of value in a quick, small win.
Start with the smallest, easiest task, getting that quick win and kicking off your momentum. Then you are in a better mood, already feel fired up, and can work your way up to the more daunting tasks on your list.
Learn the art of prioritizing tasks in the workplace.
Eat that Frog
Of course, you may have heard the “eat that frog” phrase (or the “eat an elephant” variation – not sure why we have to eat unpleasant animals), which is the flip of the small wins theory.
Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” The idea is to do the most laborious and worst task, get it behind you, then the rest of the day will be so much easier.
You need to prioritize what needs to be done and put things in order. Although everything on your list seems important in reality, not everything is equally important. So figure out the few things that have to get done. That will have the most impact and get them done first. Then move on to other items on your list.
How do you know which task is your frog?
- You have to do it, but you don’t want to do it.
- It is overwhelming, just thinking about completing the task.
- You find yourself doing anything else but touching this task.
Wondering about the elephant phrase? How do you eat an elephant? Why, one bite at a time, of course. This phrase means keep at it, keep working, and you’ll get through it.
Read some examples of prioritizing skills and time management skills at work!
How to Prioritize your Tasks with the Eisenhower Decision Matrix
You can use the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to categorize your to-do list.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, former president of the United States, once said: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”
The Eisenhower Matrix evaluates tasks using the criteria of important/not important and urgent/not urgent.
It looks like this:
Quadrant 1: Important & Urgent – these tasks are to be done immediately
- Example: deadlines, emergencies, client deliverables
Quadrant 2: Important & Not Urgent – these are tasks where you decide on a schedule
- Example: vacation plans, recreation, pet projects, personal/professional development, appointments
Quadrant 3: Not Important & Urgent – these tasks can be delegated to someone else
- Example: meetings, activities/events, appointments (for other people)
Quadrant 4: Not Important & Not Urgent – these can be dropped/deleted from your list
- Example: busywork, mindlessly surfing the web, watching TV/playing video games and other time wasters
Here’s another representation of the Eisenhower Matrix:
The key here is to prioritize the things that are both urgent and important. The rest can be scheduled, delegated, or deleted.
Here are some related books you can read about productivity. But remember, these are not urgent 😉
How do you prioritize your to-do list?
This post is part of the 31 Tips for Working Moms series. See the rest of the posts here:
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