tasklistWhat a lot of professionals tend to overlook are the everyday demands on their time and energy.  People are often consumed with the priorities others put on their needs, rather than prioritizing and managing your tasks based on your needs.

In terms of what you are doing, right now, tasks are often divided into two categories: (1) that I think I need to do now, and; (2) things that are a priority.

Many times, these two things are confused, but they are not the same thing.

We often get trapped by working from someone else’s priorities. This can happen when your boss asks you to do something urgent, or an important client has an immediate need.  Sure, these absolutely need to be done.  But they cannot be done at the expense of more important priorities.  Therefore, priority setting is the key.

Develop a task list.

I suggest that you use Outlook, Sharepoint, Blackberry, Android, iPhone or other task management software to develop a task list.  If you are old-school, a hand-written task list will do.  For each task you’ll need to include a title of the task, due dates, others who share the task, and perhaps some other details in the notes section.

In your task list, consider prioritizing using the following criteria:

  • Immediate Priority (things that need to be done today)
  • Priority 1 (most important)
  • Priority 2 (not as important)
  • Priority 3 (not important)

Each morning before you start your day, take 15 minutes to review your task list. Promote things that need to be done that day to Immediate Priority.  Add new tasks to your list. Eliminate or mark “completed” all those tasks you have worked on.  If you are using project management software, you can mark a specific percentage complete.

Every Monday morning, review your task list from the previous week.  You may need to re-assess priorities.  Make sure nothing has fallen off the radar.

If things that your make Immediate Priority or Priority 1 are not being accomplished, you either have a time management issue or a prioritization issue.  If things are being routinely left on either Immediate Priority or Priority 1, are they really a priority?

Schedule time in your calendar.

Schedule time in your calendar to complete your tasks.  If you have back-to-back meetings all day, or are travelling, you will not be able to complete any tasks.  Remember, time is gold. Use it to accomplish your priorities.

You also have to leave time for yourself.  Reserve time for lunch and dinner breaks.  Take short health breaks to walk around or for a nutritious snack.  Above all, never, ever, sacrifice family time. Family and loved ones are truly the highest priority.

Manage Expectations.

No matter what I write for you here, you will always have requests, inquiries, demands and tasks coming at you from your boss or your clients.  No matter how your prioritize these tasks, you will always have to communicate back or action this out in another way.

For example:  when I am provided with a task, I immediately cross-reference the request with my calendar and task list. I call this “triage”.  By taking a look at my task list and schedule for the day, I can determine when and where I can action this task.

At that point, I can also give my clients (or your boss) an idea when that task can be completed.  If this time frame is acceptable, and your boss is reasonable they will usually understand.  If it needs to be done sooner you’ve got yourself an issue.

If you are a manager, perhaps you can delegate the task to someone else. Most effective teams are also quite flexible.

Remember to be honest with yourself in building your task list. Be honest with your boss and clients as well.  Remember Time cannot be changed. But how your use that time, depends on how you prioritize the things you need and want to accomplish.