Guest Author - Deborah Crawford
Time management is an issue most everyone wrestles with, and it seems to get worse every day. It can be frustrating and stressful to never get “done” with your to-do list, much less find time for rest and relaxation. Sometimes we just have to admit that we cannot do everything we want to in the time we have allotted. If that is an issue for you, how do you determine what to let go and what to hang on to? Prioritizing your to-do list can help.
By assigning each of your tasks a priority ranking, you can actually accomplish more of the important things and get better results from the time you do have. It helps you work “smarter” instead of harder.
Working without being aware of your priorities means that you can work very hard and never feel as if you have really accomplished anything. Everyone has had those days when we are “busy, busy, busy” but at the end of the day, it seems as if we are no further along our path than when we started. That is what happens when you are working without prioritizing your jobs.
A very simple ABC ranking system can help. A is for the top priority tasks, B for secondary tasks and C for those tasks you would like to complete but are not as important as A and B tasks. Yes, C tasks often remain undone, but if you rank them based on your priorities, you will find that maybe they were not as important as you thought. By completing your most important tasks, you will not only be more productive overall, but you will be less stressed just knowing that what you did accomplish matters.
How to Assign Rankings:
”A” Priorities are those items that you must complete. For your business, “A” priority tasks should include things that make you money, paying bills and taking good care of your customers. Your “A” priorities are those that have the biggest, most immediate impact on your business.
”B” Priorities are those which you need to do but are not as essential as “A” tasks. You might have “B” priorities such as ordering new business cards, reorganizing your filing system, shopping for a new website host or creating a flyer for your holiday promotions. “B” tasks are often moved up to “A” status as they get closer or more important.
”C” Priorities are either things you want to do at some point in the future or things you would “like” to do. They usually have minimal current impact on your business. Sometimes they don’t get done. But, that’s okay because it isn’t a top priority and knowing that means you do not have to feel guilty about it! And, you can always move them up on the ranking as needed.
To determine if a particular item is an A, B or C priority, think of “A” tasks as “must” do, “B” tasks as “should” do, and “C” tasks as “could” do.
The real trick is learning which task falls into which priority level. It can be tempting to convince yourself that everything is an “A” and you must do them all. Some days, that might even work. But in the long run, you will find that being brutally honest with yourself when prioritizing takes away the stress of deciding what to do next and makes your daily work flow much more enjoyable and actually productive.
Once you have your tasks prioritized, you can then schedule them in a way that works for you. Start with the “A” tasks. Pick the most important one and work on it first. Continue going from most important to least important.
You should work on your most important tasks during your most productive work times, and allot the most time during your day to those “A” tasks. Then, you can squeeze in some of the less important tasks (typically routine tasks like filing, returning calls, answering emails, etc.) in shorter sessions during the day after you have made good progress on your priority tasks.
Focusing on what is most important is a primary key to success. It sounds very simple, but often we get “busy” and simply forget to work on what matters until we have run out of work time. Prioritizing your to-do list can be a simple but highly effective productivity tool.
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