How To Prioritize Your Work (5 Simple Methods To Help You Focus)

A man prioritizing a phone call over his other work.

With fast-approaching deadlines, a full workload, and demanding bosses, do you struggle to prioritize your work? Don’t worry, you are not alone.

In fact, at some point or another, everyone struggles to prioritize their work, how much time should be spent on each task, as well as balance all the other duties you might be responsible for.

To best prepare yourself when you have a full schedule and competing demands, you should prioritize your work by:

  • scheduling important tasks
  • creating a plan the day before
  • determining when you work best
  • classifying tasks as urgent or important
  • setting time for breaks

Below, more detail is provided on each of these five methods to help you prioritize your work.

1. Schedule Important Tasks – Other Items Can Fill In The Gaps

Tasks of high importance should be scheduled. Furthermore, they should be scheduled during your most productive hours of the day.

Why fill your most productive hours of the day with pointless meetings, or mundane tasks that lack importance and don’t do a whole lot to take you closer to achieving your big-picture goals?

It is important to recognize the hours that you work best and block them off. This is discussed more in the section below: Find When You Work Best.

Back to the important tasks. If you want to accomplish one thing in a day, you should put it under the important task category.

By being able to prioritize your work and schedule an important task during your most productive hours, you are giving yourself the best probability of completing it. Without scheduling important tasks, you end up spending more time on items that don’t matter as much.

It might appear that all tasks are equally important, but this is not the case. There are always one or two items that should be your central focus of the day.

Examples of important tasks may include ones that are vital in helping you accomplish a big goal, working with your major clients, or spending time on items that significantly increase your revenue, etc. If time isn’t spent in these areas, your job, your business, or your lifestyle will be threatened.

While other items are necessary, they shouldn’t dictate how you arrange your day. These items should be on your to-do list, but it isn’t crucial to schedule or assign a time slot to them.

They should be completed when you aren’t working on important tasks, or used as time fillers in between high priority items. Examples of these types of items usually relate to administrative duties, responding to emails, etc.

These items are on your to-do list for a reason, they need to get completed at some point, but your day should not revolve around them.

2. Plan What Needs To Be Accomplished The Day Before

A considerable amount of time can be saved each day if you are to plan the day before, what you want to accomplish tomorrow.

When you do this, instead of coming into your workspace and taking the time to determine what needs to be accomplished, you enter your workspace already aware of what your day will look like.

By creating a plan the day before you complete the work, it can help in a number of different ways.

Firstly, you are giving thought to the tasks that need to be accomplished tomorrow. How you should prioritize your work, what items will be difficult, are there any urgent items which need to be tackled first or before a certain time?

When you are aware of what needs to be accomplished, you can prioritize them as you see fit. This helps you minimize the time you spend determining what item you should work on next when tomorrow comes.

Secondly, by getting your thoughts on paper, you are less likely to forget items. There is a lot going on in your mind, and when you are focused on other tasks and deadlines, you might forget other high priority items.

If you put your thoughts on paper, in the form of a to-do list, you aren’t relying on yourself to remember everything you need to get done. The to-do list does the heavy lifting for you. You refer back to it throughout the day to keep you on track with your plan.

3. Find When You Work Best

After you have been working for a long enough amount of time, you start to recognize when you work well and when you don’t.

Maybe you are a morning person and find yourself to be the most alert and productive right when you wake up. As the day goes on, you slowly start to lose focus and notice your productivity decrease.

Alternatively, it might take you several cups of coffee and a few hours in the morning to wake up before you start to accomplish what it is that you need to do.

When you can recognize the hours you are most efficient and effective, you can use this to your advantage. Block this time off each day as you will be using it to tackle your most challenging and important tasks. This helps so you can prioritize your work accordingly.

For a long time, the working day was primarily between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm. These were the hours in which work would get done, regardless of which hours of the day you found you could accomplish the most.

Even the suggestion that maybe some individuals would be more productive at different times of the day would be disregarded. And for some old fashioned people, this is very much still the case.

However, with advances in technology, it has allowed individuals to be able to work remotely, and at all times of the day.

Of course, there are some exceptions to working at different hours of the day depending on your job duties, the tools you require to do your job, and if you are restricted by location.

But for most jobs, if you think outside of the box, you will be able to incorporate some degree of flexibility in regards to start and end times.

This will help you greatly by focusing all your efforts during the period you are most productive, especially if you find it isn’t between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm.

4. Recognize The Difference Between Urgent And Important Tasks

There is a big difference between tasks that are urgent and tasks that are important. Being able to recognize the difference between urgent and important tasks will help you prioritize your work.

Urgent tasks are ones with a fast-approaching deadline that needs to be met. All other tasks are put on the back-burner until the urgent task has been completed.

Maybe it is a request from your boss for an analysis that she needs in an hour, or you have a 4 pm deadline to submit a report, and you will require the whole day to complete it.

When deadlines are fast approaching, other tasks seem to be forgotten about and all your effort is strictly focused on the urgent assignment.

Important tasks are ones that might not have a deadline that is immediate or fast approaching, but they are still tasks that will require significant time and effort to complete.

Your day should be structured around these tasks, and as alluded to previously in this article, you should schedule these tasks during your most productive hours of the day.

5. Always Set Aside Time For Breaks (They Are Important)

Regardless of how much work you accomplish in a day, you can always convince yourself that more can be done. While it may be true that more work can be completed, you should set aside enough time each day that works for your lifestyle, for a break.

A break from work could be to spend time with your kids, take time for yourself to relax, exercise, meet up with friends, read a book, etc.

Breaks can help you in a few different ways. Firstly, they do exactly as they are named, they provide you with a break from what you are working on.

There will be times each day where you are getting frustrated with an aspect of work. It is important to be able to recognize these times, step away for a bit, take your mind off the task, regroup, and get back to what you are working on feeling refreshed.

If you schedule breaks for the same time each day, you subconsciously work towards them, which leads to the second benefit of breaks. They help reward you for the hard work you are putting in, as well as help to create mini-deadlines.

Think about lunch breaks. They help you prioritize your work so you can get a specific task completed before taking a break. For instance, you might use them as a deadline to finish what you were working on before going to eat.

Furthermore, they provide you a small reward as you get to break from work, enjoy some food, and the company of your coworkers.

You always manage to get done what is required in the time you are given. By taking breaks, you can increase your efficiency and enjoy things in life that aren’t directly related to your work.

The realization that there are 86,400 seconds each day. What are you doing today, so that tomorrow you are a step closer to where you want to be? If not now, then when?

eightysixfourhundred, make them count

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Hi, I'm James! I want to help you make the most of your day by providing helpful tips and informative articles on motivation, time management, productivity, and happiness.

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