Effective Scheduling: Prioritizing Tasks to Make the Best Use of Your Time

how to prioritize tasks

When you are dealing with multiple responsibilities, prioritization is necessary to make sure you finish what you need to do on time. Especially now that everything seemed to be done fast-paced, and that every task seems to be a priority. Having a clear idea of what to do first will help in the success of your projects, tasks, etc.

What is Prioritization and why is it important?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defined prioritization as “to organize (things) so that the most important thing is done or dealt with first.” Prioritizing determines the level of importance, urgency, and longevity of a task, thing or event.

Through prioritizing, you will give your attention and focus on a task that is important and urgent and not waste time on lower priority tasks. And while having a to-do list is important, not knowing what to work on first out of your list lessen its effectiveness, thus affecting your productivity.

So how do you decide what to do first out of your line-up of tasks?

Write everything down

I’m sure you must have a lot of things going on in your life right now. I know the feeling of wanting to get everything done all at once but not having enough time and energy to do so. To decide what task you have to invest in first, list down all the things you need and want to do.

Write it on a piece of paper, a notebook or a planner, as long as it’s accessible for you. List down all the tasks you need to do daily, projects that need to be done this week or month, and long-term goals you want to achieve.

Seeing everything laid down on a piece of paper helps you realize the level of importance and the amount of time you need to spend to complete each of them. You can visualize what to do first rather than just relying on your brain to do the calculation.

Start organizing your priorities

Once you get everything written down, prioritize your tasks by categorizing them, whether it’s for your daily, weekly, or monthly goals. At the same time, learn to recognize its importance, whether it’s something you need to do and not just something you want to do.

Brian Tracy, a productivity consultant, explained that your monthly list contains an item from your master list, your weekly list from your monthly list, and a daily list from your monthly and weekly list.
Making sure that your daily tasks are aligned with your long-term goals helps you in achieving them. It also ensures that you are investing your time correctly and significantly.

The Eisenhower Matrix

So how do you prioritize your tasks? Use the Eisenhower Matrix.

Developed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, a five-star general during World War II and the 34th president of the United States. The Eisenhower Matrix is a simple tool that helps you categorize between important tasks and urgent ones.

There are four quadrants in the Eisenhower matrix that will help you what tasks to prioritize to make you most productive and effective:

• Urgent & Important tasks/projects- to be completed immediately
• Not Urgent & Important tasks/projects- to be scheduled on your calendar
• Urgent & Unimportant tasks/projects- to be delegated to someone else
• Not Urgent & Unimportant tasks/projects- to be deleted

But how do we determine the urgent tasks from important ones? Steven Covey, the author of the best-selling book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, explained it in-depth:

Urgent matters are those that require immediate action. These are the visible issues that pop up and demand your attention NOW. Often, urgent matters come with clear consequences for not completing these tasks. Urgent tasks are unavoidable, but spending too much time putting out fires can produce a great deal of stress and could result in burnout.

Important matters, on the other hand, are those that contribute to long-term goals and life values. These items require planning and thoughtful action. When you focus on important matters you manage your time, energy, and attention rather than mindlessly expanding these resources. What is important is subjective and depends on your own values and personal goals. No one else can define what is important for you.


Work on the most important task first

Some people I know tend to do the least important task first before working on the most important one. They say getting the simpler tasks (usually with less importance) firsts allows them to focus on the more complicated tasks (which is usually the important ones).

They do have a point too, but doing the most important task right away will help you boost your momentum as you go on along the day. Besides, better to start working on complicated tasks early since your mind is still fresh and is still free from distractions.

Be flexible

Now, having goals and plans doesn’t mean your direction is fixed. The truth is, we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, or the next day or month. There might be changes to your goals. And that’s okay.

Don’t mourn over the time, effort, and skills you put into something only to change. And don’t continue doing it just because you have started it already. Remember that we cannot turn back time once it’s wasted. Focus your energy and time on the new priorities.

Make yourself a priority

We have this tendency to overdo things once we want to achieve our goals. Putting work, tasks, business, and other responsibilities first will have negative effects in the long run.

Always set a time for yourself. Make yourself a priority. Think of it as recharging your batteries after days, weeks, or months of hustling. A much needed time for rest will give you renewed energy and passion to work more in achieving your goals.

The Bottomline

Despite organizing and prioritizing all your tasks within the day, completing all of them every time is not a guarantee. There are always distractions or emergencies that needed to be addressed first. prioritizing isn’t a guarantee to have everything finished, but it does make you productive and making you one step closer to your goals.