In the ever-expanding, ever-moving, globalised arena that is modern life, information circulates at vertiginous speeds; along with it, tasks and obligations come and go, often leaving us feeling stranded and overwhelmed, attempting to make sense of it all. In the meantime, opportunities fly past as we’re busy drowning in a sea of hectic work, leaving us wishing we could have managed our time just a little better. Prioritising tasks will no doubt prove helpful in navigating our workload, but how exactly do we do this when everything seems super urgent? In situations like these, it is important we don’t forget to pause, take a step back and breathe. Luckily, there are a few handy tips we can use to learn to prioritise and get our tasks in order.
A moment of introspection is always welcome, especially when it comes to decluttering our minds. Consider whether the tasks you need to perform hold an equal amount of relevance to you or if, instead, the sense of urgency may stem from external factors (e.g. the need to meet a deadline). Take some time to make sure you are covering all your bases. Once you have identified your core priorities, it’s time to:
- Write them down:
By taking notes of every major task you need to accomplish, you’ll help your brain get a clearer picture of the situation, thus enabling you to set varying levels of priority based on the specific targets you seek to accomplish. Order tasks by their time of completion? Great idea! Perhaps by deadline? Sure! And what about long-term goals? In essence, prioritising is all about keeping your objective in mind at all times, and putting your thoughts on paper will certainly assist you in this matter. Also, setting a fixed number of items on your list (say, ten major tasks to accomplish throughout the day) may enable you to better assess their urgency by forcing you to consider why they should, or shouldn’t, be left aside.
Once you’ve got your list, it’s now time to focus on the bottom of the barrel: Just how urgent are the least urgent things on your to-do list? Perhaps you can do without them, so as to focus more time on the most pressing matters. Would your list work better with fewer items on it? The key lies in striking a comfortable balance between productivity and comfort. If you absolutely cannot afford to lose any task, then you will have to work around that: focus instead on the time between tasks and how you can minimise any unproductive time. For that matter alone, it is imperative to:
- Lump together tasks of a similar nature:
No matter how acute or analytical it is, the human brain is still notoriously bad at multitasking, yet it excels at activating the autopilot and relying on muscle memory to get the job done while it focuses on more prominent matters. This mechanism can work in your favour if you combine items of the same nature into a singular task. Even if the tasks in question do require a high degree of concentration, benefitting from the inertia of completing several, similar chores in a row is a sure-fire way of getting stuff done.
In addition to bringing similar tasks together, performing the said tasks during the same specific time frames every day allows for our minds to develop certain routines, which in turn makes us more efficient at dealing with recurring tasks.
- Know your peaks and troughs:
It’s certainly useful to be able to bundle together the most mundane tasks in order to secure some leeway for accomplishing what’s truly relevant, but all these efforts will amount to nothing if your energy supplies are exhausted by that point. That is why you need to be mindful of those times throughout the day when your energies are at their peak and then allocate the most important activities to those time slots. Devote your energies to what really matters and let the autopilot take you through the slog, knowing that you’ve put your focus to the best use.
- Respect the power of breaks:
Even letting the automaton in us kick in for the roughest, more menial jobs can actually become a gruelling task in and of itself. That’s why it’s vital to stop and try to catch your breath every so often. Allow your thoughts to roam free and stretch for a while, away from the urgencies and worries. A five-minute break per hour should do the trick and get you going. Maybe take your focus away from screens of any kind during this time? Remember, it’s all about recharging those batteries.
- Go for the Brain-Downloads:
The human thought process functions very much like an urban road: every so often, we will get to an intersection where incoming traffic will flow from both directions and even merge into our lane, potentially causing jams and bottlenecks. It is easy to get sidetracked by intermittent thoughts that seemingly come out of nowhere and fill our heads with sudden concerns and queries. One strategy for dealing with all that clutter is to simply get it down on paper, condensing your thoughts into quick notes scribbled on a page. The more, the merrier: what matters most is that they’re out of the way. Besides, you can always get back to them later.
Following these 8 tips, you should master the art of prioritising in no time! Just remember: Reflect, Write and Strategise, and don’t ever let anything get in your way again!