Having trouble prioritizing your tasks? Try these two techniques
As I went further into my career, I’ve started to take on more projects and responsibilities at work. This gives me more tasks to get through the day compared to before. And while it may be rewarding to take bigger responsibilities, this gives me my biggest problem now- prioritizing my workload. Working on multiple projects, it’s inevitable that there are some projects I’m more interested in. In turn, I’m more motivated to work on that particular project compared to the others. There are also times when a more urgent or difficult task will come, and I’ll have to focus all my time and energy on that task. This causes the more mundane and “less priority” task to be pushed back, until they go uncompleted for a day, then for a week, until they sit waiting in my to-do list forever.
So how does one prioritize a task? Let’s look at two popular techniques- “Eat the Frog” and “Eisenhower Matrix”.
Eat the Frog
Mark Twain has once famously said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”. Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker and self-help author, coined the term “Eat the Frog” based on the quote, and developed the time-management system based on that term. Tracy advises to do your most important and difficult task at the start of each day, since by doing so, you will have this mindset that the worst is behind you, thus making you more motivated to take on the rest of your tasks. It’s also a good weapon against procrastination, since you avoid putting off the task.
While “Eat the Frog” is geared towards a more demanding task (for example, an intensive research for your project, or a presentation that you need to finish in two days), I usually use this approach in tackling my mundane and boring tasks like answering emails or setting up appointments, since that is my “frog”. They may not be the most exciting things to do but they are important, and finishing them first thing in the morning I avoid putting them off plus it gets me into a productive roll.
President Dwight Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States. During his term, he built the Interstate Highway System and created NASA, while still having the time to pursue his hobby of oil painting. He was known for his incredible productivity, and he coined the strategy called “Eisenhower Matrix”. This strategy works by helping you prioritize tasks by urgency and importance, sorting out less urgent and important tasks that you should either delegate or not do at all.
Photo credits: Eisenhower.me
To use the Eisenhower Matrix, you’ll need to divide your tasks into four quadrants:
- Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
- Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
- Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
- Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).
I find the Eisenhower Matrix useful in providing me a framework- it helps me filter which tasks to prioritize and avoid using up all my time working on interesting tasks that may not be as important compared to others. The “Schedule” part is helpful for me too, since I get to see tasks that may not be urgent, but is important to do in the long run.
Which of the two strategies do you use? Or do you have a different way to prioritize your tasks? Sound off in the comments below.