Everyone is struggling with their workloads at the moment, and one of the first casualties of this is effective prioritisation.

We all experience the challenge of having multiple projects and competing deadlines, but the more things you need to get done, the more important it becomes to make thoughtful decisions about what to prioritise.

An important thing to remember is that when you decide to do something, you are choosing not to do everything else.

Mastering your prioritisation, therefore, involves moving away from reactive, task orientation – and towards self-directed, outcome orientation.

What not to do:

  • Have no system for prioritising your work
  • Have no clear goals or objectives
  • React to everything that comes your way, or say yes to everything
  • Only prioritise the most urgent task
  • Prioritise your email inbox over your considered strategic output

What to do instead – watch the video above

1. Get clarity on your goals/objectives, and your role/purpose.

It’s tough to prioritise your work if you don’t know where you want to go. Start by getting clarity on what will define your success. What are your goals and purpose? What process do you have to get there? How is your performance measured?

Start prioritising with a sense of your desired outcomes. If you need help setting goals, watch How to Set Goals and How to Turn Goals into Processes.

2. Do an 80/20 analysis

Based on your goals, do an 80/20 analysis. The 80/20 principle, or Pareto’s law, states that 20% of what you do generates 80% of your results or progress. The other 80% of what you do doesn’t matter very much (sorry!). 

An 80/20 analysis helps clarify the tasks and activities that give the greatest return or value. Not all tasks are equal. To prioritise your tasks, you have to differentiate between high and low-value tasks.

So, get a pen and paper and create two columns. At the top of the left-hand column, write ‘MVT’ (Most valuable tasks or activities). At the top of the right-hand column, right ‘LVT’ (least valuable tasks or activities). Spend about 10-15 minutes identifying your MVTs and your LVTs.

Some examples of what to write in the MVT column. Goal setting, planning, learning and skill development, relationship building, improving processes and operations. If you have a team – coaching and training. These are high-value activities as they offer a high return for the time invested.

The challenge is these activities rarely have any urgency. They are seldom demanded by anyone else and hardly ever appear in your email inbox. The problem is, we often prioritise different tasks to help us meet a tight deadline. Or we prioritise tasks based on what other people demand of us in our email inbox.

The critical third step – calendarise your MVTs

3. Plan 1-3 MVTs each day — and do your most valuable task first.

Begin each morning knowing your 1-3 MVTs for the day. Do your most important task before you do anything else. It has benefits that I cannot overstate. Spend at least the first 60 minutes of your day in a non-reactive state. This type of time management will transform your productivity, improve effectiveness and increase your sense of autonomy.