How to: Prioritise work

When it comes to work, you need to get your priorities straight…

Whether you’re juggling two jobs, you’re trying to find a good balance between work and study, or you just need to a better technique when it comes to organising your to-do-list – prioritising work is essential if you want to actually get things done.

To help you rank your tasks and responsibilities effectively, here are our top tips on how to prioritise work:


Set achievable goals

Before you can prioritise your work, you need to figure out what actually needs to be done.

Start by making a to-do-list (whether it’s on paper or electronic) – including all of your pending projects, tasks, and assignments for the week. Then, be realistic with what you’re hoping to achieve, and make sure your responsibilities are consolidated into small, reachable goals.

Remember: getting everything down is more important than a specific order at this point. If you start to prioritise before you’ve assessed your workload, you’ll only end up putting what comes to mind first at the top of the list.

And, if you find yourself listing things that need to be done in six months, you’re probably thinking too far ahead.

Because let’s face it, your priorities will always change over time.

Six reasons you haven’t met your goals


Start organising

Once you’ve written everything down, it’s time to organise your tasks.

Not only should you write a due date next to each project, you should also factor other people’s schedules in.

After all, many tasks can’t be completed without the help (and consideration) of others – whether it’s that you need accounting to sign off your expenses, or your work needs to be done in time to match a client’s schedule. From there, you’ll be able to create a clear order based on importance.

But it’s not just deadlines that help with task prioritisation. Even if you have the most efficient to-do-list, a messy inbox can often do its best to throw you off.

If endless emails are becoming a distraction, try adding separate folders for each project, or colour code them according to the project or assignment it’s in reference to. That way, you’ll find it easier to focus on one thing at once, and you’ll be able to easily search for information when you need it.


Sweat the small stuff

Let’s face it, small tasks can take up a lot of time.

Whether you’re in charge of updating a weekly spreadsheet, or you’re the go-to person for answering questions around the office, many seemingly small things could end up draining your time and energy more than they should.

Not only do they have the potential to clutter up your to-do-list, they could also distract you from your priorities – especially if you’re not sure when (or even if) they’ll actually come up.

To reduce their impact on your workload, try to implement time-saving techniques for repetitive duties – whether it’s creating a template response for queries, or creating a more streamlined process for data entry.

And – make sure you get these tasks done as soon as possible. That way, you’ll be able to focus your energy on more difficult (and time consuming) projects.


Be ruthless

Not all tasks are essential (at least not right now) – and understanding that is the key to prioritisation.

Because if you’re running low on time, feeling overloaded, or trying to juggle too many things at once – the quality of your work might suffer. So how can you do everything to a high standard? The truth is, you probably can’t. So don’t try.

Instead, be ruthless by cutting out less important tasks – especially if it will allow time for more pressing duties. After all, you can always shift them to next week’s to-do-list.

Minimising distractions and avoiding the temptation to procrastinate is also vital if you want to stay focused – whether it’s your social media pages or your constant urge to tidy.

Because no, your desk is not always ‘in need of a clear out’…

Six ways to beat procrastination


Make your schedule flexible

Your to-do-list is never going to be a finished document.

Whether it’s that a task steps further up the list in terms of urgency, or you get a crucial report that ‘must go out’ on the day you get it assigned – unexpected changes often necessitate alterations to your timetable.

However, that doesn’t mean you should drop everything as soon as something new comes in.

The key to staying on track is knowing what tasks need your full attention, regardless of the rest of your schedule being subject to change. In other words, you need to assess the urgency and importance of both your current and new assignments to understand which ones should come first.

And if you really can’t budge? Delegating is usually an option.

Remember: there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’ (and other inspirational clichés).


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