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Want to Accomplish More? Learn How to Prioritize Your Day


Last updated 7/13/2010

Prioritizing is a key element of being organized that will help you gain control of your work responsibilities. In order to effectively prioritize, you must learn to recognize the difference between the important, the urgent and the unnecessary. It may seem that everything is urgent, and must be acted on first, but this is not necessarily so. With good planning and prioritizing, urgent situations will become less and less frequent.

The First Step: Prepare a “to do” List

  • Take 15 minutes at the end of each day to prepare a “to do” list of those tasks you need to take action on tomorrow. These will come from your master list, along with new tasks generated during the day, which most likely are a result of phone calls, new assignments, e-mail and mail.
  • Evaluate each item on your list as to its importance and urgency, and eliminate the unnecessary. 
  • Select the top three most important tasks which must be completed, no matter what else happens that day. Number them 1, 2 and 3. It is essential to identify them in order of importance. During the day, an unexpected crisis may erupt. Any number of unforeseen occurrences will take up your time. But you will know that those top three tasks must be taken care of no matter what!
  • Select, in order of importance, the second three most important tasks and number them 4, 5 and 6. However, these three may not be acted on until the top three are completed. Following this process puts you in control of your “to do” list.

Additional “to do” List Tips: 

  • Keep your “to do” list small—no more than eight items. After all, it is a daily “to do” list. As you tick off completed tasks, you will have a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Accept the fact that you cannot do everything in one day. What may not be on the top of today’s priority list may very well be #1 on tomorrow’s list. If you accomplish five or six items on your “to do” list each day, consider it a very productive day. Remember, 5 or 6 tasks a day adds up to 25 to 30 tasks completed each week.

By prioritizing your day, you will know, every day, the top three most important tasks to be tackled before hitting your desk in the morning.