Preparing, prioritizing, and acting on tasks in your to-do list should be a daily routine. Whether to accomplish personal or company objectives, it is crucial to choose and complete tasks efficiently and consistently seek to improve output. Below we listed valuable tips on how to organize your task and to-do lists properly.
In general, tasks that get placed on a list often come from more than one source. This is because people tend to consolidate tasks on a single, master to-do list. Before prioritizing, however, it’s important to jot down everything that needs to be done.
Whether it is written out on a notepad or in an excel sheet, visualizing the entire list of what needs to be done will make things easier. Doing this will provide you with a “birds-eye view” of everything that needs to be accomplished.
Once all pending tasks are laid out, it’s time to prioritize them from “most important” to “least important.” This is usually an intuitive process consisting of considering which tasks are more urgent in combination with which can be done more quickly.
In fact, taking a dualistic approach by first organizing them from “urgent” and “important” tasks, and then within each category by quickest to longest, we get a better bird’s-eye-view of the entirety of what needs to be done. Tasks can then be stacked by combining high priority more complex tasks with essential but easy-to-complete tasks. This way one can strike a few tasks off the list right away, providing a boost of motivation and immediate sense of accomplishment.
One way to assess these methods of organization is with Stephen R Covey’s matrix (below):
Tasks that are categorized in Quadrant 1 as Urgent and Important should be tackled first. This is then followed by important, but not urgent tasks. Lastly, the not urgent and not important tasks should come last.
To conclude the prioritization process, it’s a good habit to set aside 10 minutes at the beginning and end of the day to prepare, update, and revise these lists. This will promote better organizational skills and, ultimately, instill a positive new time management habit (if you don’t already do this).
Once prioritizing and organizing is complete, it is time to take action There are several strategies in going about this process. One such strategy is the “four options,” which are a common action plan to accomplish your daily to-dos:
- Do: Work on the task now
- Defer: Complete it later
- Delegate: Assign it to another
- Delete: Remove the task altogether
As mentioned in the earlier section, it’s important to create a strategy to handle both the easy and challenging tasks. If you can do something quickly, do it first. If it’s not as urgent, it’s acceptable to defer the task until a later date. However, this is not an excuse to put it off because the task seems too daunting or time-consuming.
Priorities should always come first, no matter how complex the task. By handling these tasks early on, you can save the bulk of your time for the more time-consuming tasks. Similarly, if a task can be delegated to a more suited colleague in the team, that will help save valuable time. By fomenting this mutual support among team members, the speed and efficiency will benefit.
Lastly, it’s important to recognize and delete unnecessary tasks. Often people think something should be on their task list but it actually provides little value compared to the effort involved in completing it. These can be backlogged until a moment when time is abundant or simply written off altogether.
All in all, taking the time to put together a list of pending tasks and ranking them by importance improves workflow for workers and companies. Ultimately, this should be a common practice and daily routine.
Consolidating the tasks early can also reduce stress and help workers avoid the feeling of being overloaded. By following these tips, it’s possible to achieve a healthy and effective work regiment that will always be organized by what needs to be done first.
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