How to Prioritize Tasks


One of the key time management strategies we cover in my time management fundamentals workshop is prioritizing tasks. When you have dozens or hundreds of items on your task list, it can be overwhelming to decide what to work on next.  

A question I’m often asked is, “If we have multiple tasks we absolutely need to get done that day, but there’s not enough time to do all of them, how do we decide what to do and in which order?” 

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself to help you decide how to prioritize tasks: 


Assessing the Situation 

Does the person making this request want this completed today or must it truly be completed today? 

What are the actual deadlines for these projects or deliverables? The quickest way to triage is to handle them in order of due dates. 

If they are all indeed due today, is the entire project or deliverable due today? If not, which particular step is? 

Can this be delegated to anyone on your team? 

Is there anyone else on your team who can handle this more efficiently, and you can “barter” tasks with them? 

Is there a colleague who can share this load? 


Decision-Making Time 

What is the revenue value of each completed item? Some companies make choices based on which client or project will bring in the higher amount of revenue. (If your company does this, they should actually base their decision on profit and not just revenue.) 

What greater good will come from completion? Will the completion of a task directly benefit thousands of people, hundreds or one? You can decide based on the level of positive impact. 

Will a client, customer, colleague or someone directly involved experience a negative consequence if this task is not completed? You can rank the consequences based on severity, e.g., death, loss of custody of a loved one, loss of home, thrown into financial hardship, loss of a client, strained relationship, embarrassment, boss griping at you, etc., and complete them in order from most to least severe. 

What is the estimated amount of time needed to complete the task? If all tasks seem to be truly equal after analyzing based on the above criteria, you can determine if it’s best to finish one lengthy task or multiple less time-consuming ones. 


If you are unsure how to triage questions and requests that come in, this is an important conversation to have with your colleagues, team and supervisor. Everyone should be in agreement about the definition of a priority, how to rate the level of importance, and how to determine the choices to make. 


Next week, we’ll take a look at how to prevent this from happening. 




For a step-by-step guide to understanding this type of mind management, take a peek at The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer. 


About Helene Segura, M.A. Ed., CPO®

As The Inefficiency Assassin™, Time Management Fixer Helene Segura empowers professionals on the go with the tools to slay lost time. Personal inefficiency at work leads to increased stress levels, lower morale, higher absenteeism, more turnover – and rising spending on employee health care and hiring. Why not improve productivity, decrease stress levels, and increase profits instead?The author of four books – two of which were Amazon best-sellers – Helene Segura has been the featured organization expert in more than 200 media interviews. She has coached hundreds of clients to productivity success and performance improvement by applying neuroscience and behavioral modification techniques to wipe out destructive, time-wasting habits.Helene turns time management on its head by sharing both client case studies and pop culture examples to teach her mind-bending framework for decreasing interruptions, distractions and procrastination so that companies can spend more time generating revenue.

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