Picture this: It’s the start of your workweek. Your schedule is flooded with different tasks, and you are clueless on what to do first.
Well, you have ever found yourself in this situation, you are not alone. And if you are confused about how to prioritize tasks? You are at the right place.
According to McKinsey, out of 1500 executives surveyed, only nine percent were satisfied with their kind of time allocation. Further, learning how to prioritize work efficiently is critical to their success.
For example, Velocity reports that salespeople converted 15% more clients by using the tips and techniques to make their day more efficient.
What Is Prioritizing?
When you decide to put the tasks in order based on the urgency level that the job requires, you are prioritizing work.
With the help of the prioritization methods, you can efficiently save time, meet deadlines, still have some time left.
Prioritizing your tasks according to your needs is best to minimize efforts and maximize results.
To Assess Your Prioritization Ability, Ask Yourself These Questions:
- Is my time spent well when working, or do I get distracted?
- Have I met the deadlines, or do I struggle to do so?
- Do I have a progress sheet to keep track of my work and where I am with the tasks at hand?
- Are my goals aligned with the tasks?
- Do I take tasks based on their importance and spend time well?
- Are my goals set for the week realistic, or do I overestimate the tasks I can handle?
What Is the Task Prioritization Matrix?
A task prioritization matrix is a tool that helps you prioritize work by dividing your tasks into four categories.
How To Use the Task Prioritization Matrix?
Following are some of the ways you can use the task prioritization matrix.
- Consider all the vital elements of the tasks. Consider which tasks are currently crucial for the project. Also, make the deadline clear.
- Set a score range. It would help if you gave each task a consistent score across the projects. For example, 0- uncategorized, 1- low importance, 2- medium importance, 3- high importance.
- Have an open discussion with the team. Get an estimate of which team can work on what tasks.
- Make the final decision after taking the team’s perspective. Ask them if the top tasks are the right ones or would some changes be needed?
Why Prioritizing Work Is Important?
When you prioritize work, you can efficiently complete it and finish it in time.
Often, teams and individuals get overwhelmed with long to-do lists. In such times, prioritizing the critical tasks will significantly help the teams prioritize work and not stress over the lists.
When you are not stressed about the next task in line, you can do better. That way, you save more time for more significant tasks and work efficiently.
Prioritizing work is vital because it gives you more time and productivity.
How to Prioritize Tasks?
There are two important steps that you need to consider when beginning with your prioritization.
List All Your Tasks
To prioritize all your tasks, first, you should identify them.
Take a moment and jot them down, or use an online tool like Chisel.
Make a note of everything you need to complete in the given timeframe. Out of these, determine the tasks you want to prioritize and create a master list of everything.
Tasks can come from various places. Ensure to check all possible sources, including email, Slack, and any paper notes you may have left yourself.
After this, you can begin analyzing them to determine how to go ahead and prioritize your tasks.
Pick a Strategy
Now that you have everything listed out, it is time to pick a strategy for attacking the tasks on your to-do list.
Suppose you are planning things out for yourself or prioritizing unrelated tasks. In that case, we recommend sorting them into four distinct categories:
Do Tasks: You should complete the tasks now.
Defer Tasks: You can push off the tasks till later.
Delegate Tasks: You can assign the tasks to someone.
Delete Tasks: Unnecessary Tasks.
Do Tasks are generally should take less than 2 minutes to complete. We complete these tasks immediately because it takes more effort to schedule them than finish them right now.
Defer Tasks are the ones you can delay and don’t need to take up immediately. Please note that these tasks are important, but they are not required urgently. Hence, you can keep them aside and focus on the ‘do tasks.’
Usually, it requires you to seek approval from your supervisor to defer tasks. However, if you have autonomy over your work, you can prioritize as per the deadlines.
Delegate tasks are the ones you could do but not the best use of your time. This is because you have more important responsibilities on your plate.
If you decide to delegate tasks, ensure to keep track of their progress, and no one is getting blocked on their completion.
An ideal way is to schedule a reminder or a meeting with the person to whom you delegated the task.
Delete Tasks have been on your list for a while. However, you know that you will never get to them. That is either because they are unimportant, or you want to de-prioritize them.
If there is a task that you are putting off and you know that you won’t complete it, remove it from your list for the time being. You can maintain a separate list for these tasks if you wish.
If you manage a project with various members, we recommend choosing either a Waterfall or Agile prioritization methodology.
Waterfall prioritization focuses on having all documentation for a project upfront. It assures everything is kept manageable and done in a particular order.
On the other hand, Agile prioritization focuses on breaking things down into specific features and tasks. These tasks are assigned to different people.
What Are the Methods to Prioritize Work?
Below you can see several prioritization methods. Determine which one works best for you.
Eisenhower Prioritization Matrix
A task prioritization matrix is a tool that helps you to prioritize work based on urgency and importance.
The Eisenhower Prioritization Matrix divides tasks into four distinct categories. These categories are based on two axes called urgency and importance.
Tasks that must be done soon or are overdue are considered urgent tasks.
Important tasks are up to you to decide. Yet, you can use excellent metrics with a ‘nice to have done’ task or ‘essential to get work done’ task.
Once you have the matrix constructed, you should pick tasks with the following categories:
- High urgency and importance
- High urgency and low importance
- High importance and lower urgency
- Low urgency and importance
Another famous work prioritization tool for prioritizing features is the Kano Method. Japanese Researcher Noriaki Kano invented the Kano method.
The Kano method divides features into five categories.
These categories have relative importance to customers and the effort required to implement them.
Once you complete this work, specifying what you should prioritize becomes simpler.
The four categories are:
- Basic (threshold)
Basic (threshold) features comprise your minimum viable product.
Without these features, your product would not meet the basic threshold to be competitive in the marketplace.
For example, suppose your product was building a messaging app, and you could not send pictures over your messaging app. In that case, naturally, your customers would be agitated as this is a primary feature that they would expect. Yet having this feature would not satisfy the customers since it is the bare minimum they expect.
Excitement features are those customers do not expect to have in your product. Thus, including these features makes them excited and sets you apart from the competition in the market.
Likely, the customer didn’t realize these features were possible in the product. Therefore, if you omit developing features, customers would not be affected.
Having a product with exciting features and then marketing them can give you an essential competitive advantage. However, finding these features will require a lot of brainstorming.
Performance features are the ones that customers expect, and not having them would lead to dissatisfaction for the customer.
There is a key difference between performance features and basic features. When you implement performance features well, the customer will view it favorably.
An ideal example would be when creating an account for a service online. Every website requires you to have some mechanism to log in. But if a product supports multiple single sign-in options, that would be viewed favorably.
Insignificant features will have little impact on a user’s satisfaction regardless of whether you implement them or not. You should cut these features since they require extra time and resources to implement without significant results.
An excellent example of an insignificant feature would be changing the outlook of cold emails to make them more appealing. It is unlikely to care if the email names them specifically if it is sent out in mass anyway.
Reverse features are not beneficial to the customer. They bring some limitations while implementing another feature, which hinders the customer experience.
Supposes you are uncertain about how customers will receive a particular feature. In that case, you can perform user research to understand your target audience better.
You can use the Kano questionnaire to know the customer’s perspective. It would be to ask how satisfied a customer would be if they did/did not have a particular feature.
Buy a Feature
One fun collaborative way to prioritize features is the ‘buy a feature’ game.
The game is simple.
Note down all the features that need to prioritize and assign them a specific price based on the amount of time/effort they will need.
Then give yourself and your team a certain amount of money to buy the features of interest.
The ideal amount of money for the game would be 3/4 of the total features cost in the game.
The advantage of this activity is that suppose some features are too expensive for a single individual to purchase. In that case, they can collaborate with other team members to figure out what they truly value for the product’s benefit.
Moreover, this is also helpful for involving stakeholders by allowing you to gain feedback on their value.
Another fun collaborative game that can effectively prioritize features is the speedboat game.
When you want to find issues and gaps in a product, sometimes people tend to sugarcoat the problem making it harder to discover.
The speedboat game works as follows.
Tell the people involved in the game that the product you are building is like a speedboat. However, it is held back by various anchors.
The anchors represent the current issues in the product.
Ask the players to note the anchors. Ask them how faster the speedboat would go if the anchors were not in the product.
Now, you take stock of all the anchors and speed. Then, you can prioritize the anchors with the highest impact on the user experience.
This method works well because it converts identifying the weakness of a product into a game. That circumvents the typical issue of people sugarcoating their experiences/problems.
This exercise can also be beneficial when you have a group of users perform the activity. They are the ones to use the product consistently and thus are most intimately familiar with it.
Rank Tasks Relatively
Let’s assume that you have five different tasks that need to get done.
Rather than judging tasks against specific criteria, it may be easier to compare and determine which ones to do first.
It may be conducive if everything is important and urgent. But suppose you prefer doing one task to another. In that case, you can rate it higher relative to other jobs to be more productive.
When you rank tasks relative to one another, we recommend using a kanban board. The kanban board makes it easy to reorganize the relative importance of different functions that you have at hand.
Focus On a Single Task
Sometimes, it can be stressful when you have a lot on your plate. To fight this, we recommend picking a single task on your list and dedicating the day to it.
Focusing on one task with undivided attention gives you the feeling of making progress on the task at hand. Thus, it makes you more productive since you don’t worry about anything else for the time being.
Irrespective of which prioritization method(s) you choose, ensure to consistently update your metric to make decisions.
Ignoring new information/updates to the product can drastically change how you should prioritize various features. As a result, the work you are doing may not be as efficient as possible.
Once you get into this rhythm, determining what features you need to prioritize will be more manageable.
Which Is the Best Work Prioritization Tool?
Organizing your work is a difficult task.
With the vast number of tasks you have on any given day, it’s hard to know what should be prioritized and when.
This blog post introduced you to some different techniques for prioritizing your work. Now, you can spend more time producing value than organizing what needs to be done first.
We don’t want you searching for the tools yourself – we’ve got tools to help you. Signing up for the best product management software like Chisel will help you make sense of sticky feature requests and prioritize every step of the way.
How To Improve Prioritization Skills?
Incorporate these three ways to better your prioritization skills.
Set Realistic Goals
Don’t directly jump to make a to-do list once you know the tasks. Take a closer look at your own and your team’s performance, career, and business objectives.
Now consider the tasks and projects you have to work on. Then ask yourself questions such as whether this task will help me achieve my goals. Are these tasks most important right now?
Craft a To-do List
Now that you have set goals make a to-do list for the week.
Set aside a particular time once a week (at the start or the end of the week) to set intentions.
Understand Both the Urgency and Importance of the Tasks
Before you prioritize work, as yourself these two questions: Is the task I am looking at urgent? Is this task also important?
Once you do this, take on the important but not critical tasks.
And finally, take the tasks that are not important. See if you can give these tasks to someone else.
How Do Good Leaders Prioritize Work?
Great leaders are champions because they prioritize work. Below are some of the steps they follow, which you can too:
Great Leaders Have Proactive Time
They prioritize work based on urgency and set a proactive time when only important tasks are taken into consideration. During this time, they deal with one task at a time.
Great Leaders Cut Down Tasks Into Chunks
They don’t get overwhelmed with larger tasks. Instead, they break these tasks into smaller chunks.
Great Leaders Know How To Take a Busy Day/Week in Stride
They are ready for a busy day and week. They also anticipate and design their busy weeks ahead of time.
By now, you know how to prioritize work with the efficiency tools and techniques.
Whether you are working independently or in a team, having the necessary prioritization skills can make a big difference in prioritizing work.
Use the task prioritization matrix to save time, improve productivity, and meet deadlines like a pro!