People Management

A simple way to prioritize your work

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

You’ve had a few days off or your colleagues did, you’ve disconnected for a while and work has started to pile up. There are so many things to be done… what do you start with? Everything was due yesterday, and everything takes time. First, breathe. It’s always going to be like this.

Given you’re so busy, but still took the time to read this, let me show you how easy it is to put some order into that pile of work:

1. Make a list with everything you have to do today.

2. Split all those items on the list into the four categories I will show you below.

3. Address them in that order.

The four categories you have to use are:

  1. Important and urgent – these are pretty straightforward and most likely you’ve got someone on your back already who’s asking you every hour how’s it going.
  2. Important, but not urgent – this is the list we often procrastinate about. It’s the big stuff that we want to postpone if we can, because it’s not urgent. Important can mean important for you, your organisation or your manager. Question is: who goes first?
  3. Not important, but urgent – many people are surprised this comes in the third place, because there are urgent things in there. Urgent for whom? If they are unimportant, it means you can afford to miss the deadline. Yes, some things have to fail and that’s ok if they are not important.
  4. Not important and not urgent – you would be surprise how many things clutter in this category and usually time consuming ones!

Be careful what you deliver and at what pace. People who deliver volumes will always be executants, because at the bottom of the organisation there will always be tons of work. Besides, if you always deliver everything assigned to you (while secretly working overtime), what message are you sending? That you can do it, right? Because everything gets done on time, so there might even be room for more.

Leaders need to focus on strategic work, on what’s important. They do what matters. As long as the important part of the pile is addressed, nobody will afford to criticize you, because they would have to start picking on small things which make them look ridiculous.

Even if you don’t have the time to make a list, when someone is asking you to work on a task now, ask yourself at least this: is it important and urgent? If not, then it’s not your priority. When someone who’s extremely busy finds the time for you, although what you were asking for is not important and maybe not urgent, it means you are a priority and that matters a lot.

Good luck and have a successful week!

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