Time Management – Identifying Daily Priorities for Maximum Efficiency

Check_List_Check_OffAs Small Office Communicators, for time management, we’ve often got a to-do list for today that’s just a disorganized jumble. Everything on it seems critical, and we never know what’s going to happen today (see my last post about interruptions) and what if we don’t get through them all?

The right time management solution is to prioritize. Move the most important things to the top and start there, working your way down. If you don’t get to the least important tasks at the bottom, it’s alright; you can do them tomorrow.

Evaluate Your Tasks

How do you decide what’s most important? Sometimes, it’s not easy. For each item, ask yourself:

  • How does it benefit the company and how does it benefit me?
  • How does it move me closer to my goals?
  • How does it help build relationships?
  • Who is relying on us to get it done?
  • And the all-important, how will it affect the company’s income?

These questions help to show which to-dos should be near the top and which may well be saved for later. The more clear benefits a task has to your company and to you, the higher it should be on your priority list.

The Basics of Prioritizing

Here’s the companion to the previous step. Ask, “If I only get one thing done today and the rest of the day is a total wash, which one thing should it be?” Once you choose the one task, move on to the next. If you only get two things done today, what should they be? Keep this up, and you’ll have a nicely prioritized to-do list.

There is also an easier, but a bit less precise way to prioritize. Create categories. Your categories might be something like:

  • Must get done today or it’s I lose customers!
  • Really should get done today, but I won’t lose business if I don’t
  • Ought to be done today
  • Would help if done today
  • Doesn’t need to be done today

Use wording that works for you and your business. You could also choose to create 3 levels with Level One being most urgent. This way of ranking is easier and more flexible; after all, you’ll get more than one thing done today.

When you get to the end of the day and there are still a few low-priority tasks to complete, let them go but decide exactly when you’ll do them. Choose a day by which they should be done.

To Do List or Done List?

Most of us create ‘to-do’ lists. A to-do list is simply your prioritized list of today’s tasks. As you complete each one, you cross them off. Another method is to create a ‘done’ list. Instead of focusing on the things you still have to do today, focus on what you’ve finished. Write down each task as you finish it. This has the powerful psychological effect of showing you everything you’ve gotten done.

Be Flexible

You can use a standard daily to-do list with time management tasks that need to be done each day, but keep it flexible. Your priorities may change from day to day… even hour by hour within a day. Your daily priority list gives you a great road-map to follow so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and don’t have to think (as the great Jedi Knight and philosopher, Yoda, reminds us, “Do not think – do!”). But don’t be afraid to change course if needed. You can apply the same methods outlined here for prioritizing weekly, monthly, yearly and long-term tasks and goals as well.


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