How to Prioritize When It’s All Due Now
Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed with multiple tasks or deliverables all due at the same time? Maybe you have a deadline rapidly approaching and you’re not sure how you’ll manage everything on your plate. You are not alone. In fact, I found myself in this predicament these past few weeks.
Things were running pretty smoothly until the end of October when the flood gates opened. I had a number of planned projects and then some great opportunities fell into my lap. I was pretty confident I could manage them but it did require me to step back and prioritize a bit so I thought I would share with you the process I use myself and with my clients. It’s not hard. It only takes a few minutes and, believe me, it is time well spent.
Before I jump in, I want to clarify there are two very different types of prioritizing by my thought. The first is prioritizing all you have to do each day. The second is prioritizing what is most important to you – your core values. This post will be digging into the former. We will address the latter another time as that is a whole different can of worms.
OK, back to our regular programming…
I always start with a brain dump. Grab a piece of paper or do it online if you prefer and create categories. Under each category, capture all the tasks in no particular order. Just get them out of your head and on paper. This exercise alone is a huge stress reliever. Sometimes you may even find that once everything is captured, it’s not so overwhelming.
A quick primer on task vs. category. A category requires multiple steps to complete. A task is one action you need to take.
Take the simple example of baking cookies. Some might think this is a task, but it’s actually a category because it requires multiple steps to actually bake cookies. Here’s how that looks as a brain dump.
Bake cookies (category)
(below are all tasks)
· find recipe
· check whether I have ingredients
· purchase missing ingredients
· find time in schedule to bake cookies
· make batter
· bake cookies
· decorate cookies
The thought of baking cookies could feel overwhelming, but each individual task is totally manageable.
So you’ve completed your brain dump and have a list of categories and tasks. Now what? How do you prioritize across categories? Start with putting a due date next to the category.
Presto - you now have a visual of what is due when.
This visual will guide you based on when you actually need to complete each task. That is your simple way of creating a prioritized list.
Here are some questions to ask yourself for each category and task:
· What date/time is this due?
· Who is waiting on this to be completed?
· Is this holding up other people or projects?
· Is this a self-imposed deadline?
· What’s the impact if it’s not done on time?
· Am I the only one who can do this?
I know this isn’t exciting but trust me, if you can master this process, you can handle any size project or even juggle multiple projects with less stress, more ease and more control. It may take a little practice, but that's true when learning anything new.
Another benefit of this exercise is it will become very clear to you the urgency of the project, who is the driving force behind your commitments and how much ego you’re willing to relinquish.
Give this a try. Still stuck and not sure how to get started, reach out here for clarification or maybe that extra support you need to take control.
Now off to bake some cookies since my work is done for the day.