Picture this scenario:
You’ve got a bunch of tasks on your plate when your boss walks in and hands you another super important and highly urgent project that needs to be completed. This is the straw that breaks your (metaphorical) back — there’s just too many things to do and not enough time to do it.
So, what do you do? How can you prioritize and complete these tasks in time without burning out?
We’ve faced this situation plenty of times. It gets worse when teams are remote and distributed because we cannot physically see people working at their desk before asking them to pick up more. Managing priorities is a valuable skill to inculcate. Today, we’re here to show you how the team at Brucira prioritizes their tasks for maximum productivity and efficiency.
1. List all your tasks
Before anything else (even panic), the first thing you need to do is list all the tasks and create a to-do list. This will help you understand exactly how much you have on your plate and give you a sense of the time, energy, and effort you need to allocate.
You can list your tasks in a way that works best for you: physical post-it notes or digital task management apps like Brutask or Notion. Creating a daily to-do list is the best way to ensure you don’t take on more than you can. Often, we accept tasks because we have no real understanding of how much work we already have.
Daily to-do lists will help you keep track of every task and prevent you from overworking. Checking off the completed tasks every day will also give you a sense of accomplishment and spur you to keep being productive. It’s also a good idea to keep both personal and professional tasks in a single list, so you can evaluate tasks and allocate the right time for them. For instance, on Brutask, users can mark specific tasks as Private so that users can collate their entire day’s tasks on one app.
2. Arrange according to urgency and importance
Once you have all your tasks listed, prioritize them according to urgency and importance. Creating four broad categories will help you manage your time and to-do list better: urgent and important, to be done ASAP; urgent, to be done after the first category is complete or delegated; important, to be completed on a priority basis after all the urgent tasks are done; everything else, to be completed when you have the bandwidth.
This will help you understand how to categorize your tasks and which ones to tackle first. Completing the tasks from most important and urgent to the least will help you organize your to-do list optimally. This way, if you’re handed more critical and urgent tasks, you can ask which ones currently on your list can be deprioritized to make room.
Mark the tasks that need to be completed first in different colours, so they jump out at you when you look at the to-do list. It would be best if you also allocated time for each task to understand how much time you have at hand to complete it.
3. Tag high-energy tasks
To ensure maximum productivity in a single workday, categorize your non-urgent tasks as high energy vs low energy. This refers to the amount of effort (and time) you need to put in to complete the task. Further categorized as high-reward vs low-reward can help you prioritize which tasks you want or need to get to first.
We have bursts of energy throughout the day, resulting in maximum productivity and slumps when we’re unable to do much. The average human has two main productivity peaks in a day: mid-to-late morning until lunch and then later in the evening from 4-6 pm. This can change for people who don’t work a standard 9-to-5, so it’s essential to identify the productivity peaks in your day.
During your maximum productivity peaks, you should tackle the high-energy tasks to ensure you can complete them better and faster. Schedule your low-energy and low-reward tasks in the lull periods of your day for a sense of achievement as you check things off your to-do list.
4. Break larger goals into smaller tasks
It can be daunting to look at your to-do list and see a task that hasn’t been checked off for days. This is common if you have a big goal you’re working towards but haven’t completed yet. Breaking down your main goal into smaller, easy-to-complete tasks can help you feel less overwhelmed.
Adding those small tasks to your to-do list and prioritizing them as you go along can boost your morale and keep you going.
5. Use the ditch, delegate, do method
If, after all these tips, you still have way too much on your to-do list to be able to humanely complete in time, try the ditch, delegate, or do the method. Eliminate tasks or postpone them until another, less-busy day. Speak to your boss or manager and explain that you are currently at capacity and cannot complete this on time. Clear and timely communication is essential here.
If you can, delegate the tasks. Time is money, and for you to be able to do important tasks, you have to delegate the unimportant ones. Either hand them off to a co-worker or ask your boss to assign the task to someone else on the team.
Finally, the tasks which cannot be delegated or ditched, you have to do them. Rearrange your to-do list according to the tips mentioned above once you’ve removed some tasks for maximum productivity.
6. Be transparent and flexible
As most of the world works remotely to stay safe amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the boundaries between work and rest can blur. Remember that remote work is the same as in-office work, so be sure to be open and honest about how much you can realistically achieve in a workday. Overworking can lead to burning out among remote teams, so be sure to work efficiently according to capacity.
When making your to-do list and prioritizing tasks, remember to keep it flexible since urgent tasks may crop up. Use the time allocated for non-urgent and high-energy tasks to complete unexpectedly urgent and important tasks.
Remember, staying calm and collected will help you assess your tasks and prioritize them better than freaking out. Communicate your needs and problems with your manager, team, and family members to ensure you have the right support to complete all the tasks on your to-do list.
Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for the tasks you do manage to complete!
Get started with your daily to-do list on Brutask, a simple task management app for small teams with manager view, private tasks, task prioritization, and timeboxing for free!
Try it out here: https://brutask.com/