Leadership: Make your list

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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Q. I have so much on my “to-do” list that I get overwhelmed and end up not accomplishing the important things. How do I determine the priorities so I can hit my goals?

A. You are not alone in feeling overwhelmed from too many items on your list. New tasks are added daily while others seem to stay without any movement. Continual prioritization is needed to ensure you are addressing the most important and timely items.

When prioritizing, be sure to include meetings that are scheduled to know your available time in a day.  Each morning, evaluate your list and determine importance. Consider the length of time it will take you to complete each task. Based on timeframes, determine what can be done that day. 

There are many schools of thought regarding prioritization. Below are just a few.

Option 1:

  • Items that need to be completed now
  • Items that can be completed later
  • Tasks that can be delegated
  • Tasks that can be removed because they are “pie-in-the-sky” projects that sit with no movement
  • Tasks that will take five minutes or less

Option 2: Steven Covey priority matrix

  • Urgent and important
  • Not urgent and important
  • Urgent and not important
  • Not urgent and not important

Option 3:

  • Assign each task a priority (1-10). You shouldn’t have two No. 1 tasks. If there are multiple steps to be taken to meet the due date, divide that item into smaller tasks. Rank tasks based on level of importance and urgency, not easiest.

There’s also the Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule). This rule claims that 20% of your activities account for 80% of your results. To decide your 20%, pick your top 1 to 3. These are your “Most Important Tasks” (MITs) - critical tasks that create the most significant outcomes focus on completing those that day.

Try one of these organization methods to see which fits.  If one doesn’t work, try another. Stay diligent and you will see your list shrink.

Sarah Hanna is CEO of ECS North. Reach her at sarahhanna@ecsbillingnorth.com, 419-448-5332 ext. 102.