How To Assign Priorities

Having the clarity of vision to sift through countless tasks for only the most relevant and urgent things to do is a quality of a highly effective person.  Learning how to assign priorities will not only help you manage your business and handle your work more effectively but will also help you attain a more organized personal life.

Prioritizing is essentially a rational way of planning how to apportion your time and energy among various, even competing goals. This article will guide you through the basic components of this process, which you can apply in setting priorities for yourself, a team or an organization.

  • Create a comprehensive list of all your tasks. Take the time to sit down for a few hours to do your list. Set everything else aside and just jot down every task you can think of. You opt to write your list down or make use of a computer. Record all the things you want to accomplish without any other consideration. This will serve as your master list during the entire process.
  • Clarify your standards. Assess the nature of your tasks. There are two standards that you need to be aware of. For items that are specific actions or deadline-driven, it is best to use time as your standard. However, if your list is composed of more general tasks or aims, set priorities, then based on value or profit. You can also use both, if you want to be more comprehensive.
  • Check the urgency of each task.  Make sure that you have a clear timeframe of your deadlines in mind before you label. Go through your list and label each item “Urgent” or “Not urgent.”  Do not skip anything and ensure that all items are properly labeled.
  • Decide on the value of each task. Determine whether the items are “Important” or “Not Important.” Items that can cause severe negative consequences on your performance if left unaccomplished should be marked as “Important.” On the other hand, items that you want but do not need to accomplish should be marked as “Unimportant.”
  • Make a matrix to organize the items. At this point, each of the items in your master list should have either one of these labels: “Urgent/Important,” “Urgent/Not Important,” “Not Urgent/Important,” and “Not Urgent/Not Important.” Create a table with two rows and two columns. Label the columns “Urgent” and “Not Urgent” and the rows “Important” and  Not important.”  Place each item in the intersection of columns and rows corresponding to its label.
  • Evaluate consequences. With this matrix, you should already have a clear idea of which items to prioritize and which to let go. However, check for any conflict that may arise in accomplishing each prioritized task. To work out any conflict, assess the pros and cons of putting one item over the other. Ask yourself which consequence is more damaging and use this basis to decide.

Do not expect to create the most efficient list during your first few attempts. Mastering the art of prioritizing takes time so you need to be patient. In time, you will find that the benefits of a worry-free life compensates for the amount of time and practice you spent in learning. 


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