Set priorities to manage your overwhelming to do list
You know the saying: If everything is important, nothing is important. That has never been more true than it is today. We are living in an overwhelmed society with lots of conflicting priorities. We continue to be asked to do more and more in less and less time. Technology helps. But it also creates part of the difficulty.
We are in constant communication with every aspect of our lives. We have our “to do” list or lists at our fingertips wherever we are, always there, always ready for another item or 10 to be added. We have task lists in our electronic calendars, reminders and notes on our phones. Some of us even maintain physical paper lists just so we can have the physical pleasure of checking off something when it is actually done.
With all of this coming at us, sometimes – no, often – we forget to take the time to really look at the growing list and refine it. What do I mean? We need to really examine our growing lists of tasks frequently and set priorities. We need to see which ones absolutely must be completed by us right now and which can wait a bit, which ones can be delegated, and which ones just be shoved off the list altogether.
If prioritizing your tasks sounds like just one more thing to add to your to do list, let me assure you that this one has great value. You can do it fairly easily by using an Urgent/Important matrix.
Draw a grid with four squares, two rows and two columns. Along the top, write “urgent” over the left column and “not urgent” over the right column. Along the left side, write “important” beside the top row and “not important” beside the bottom row.
Now take the top 10 things on your To Do list and begin placing them in these four categories on the grid:
- Box 1, top left: Urgent & Important
- Box 2, top right: Not urgent & Important
- Box 3, bottom left: Not important & Urgent
- Box 4, bottom right: Not important & Not urgent
Once you have divided your tasks into these four categories, here is what you have decided.
- Tasks in Box 1: You should do those now.
- Tasks in Box 2: You can decide when to do those.
- Tasks in Box 3: You should delegate those.
- Tasks in Box 4: You don’t need to do these at all. Delete them.
Once you have categorized your first 10, continue the process with your remaining tasks. Completing this process will dramatically increase your level of productivity.
Using the Urgent/Important matrix is one of the skills we teach in our Rising Stars Women’s Leadership Boot Camp and in our Managing Productivity workshop. It is a powerful tool for individuals and teams. If you like this, check out our website for information on the boot camp and our Great Managers workshops where you will get even more tools to improve your performance as a manager and leader.