A long list of ‘to-do’s’ can get overwhelming. It could leave you feeling frazzled and burned out even before you start your day. Prioritizing tasks can go a long way to ease some of the stress by giving you some structure to your day, month, or year. Here is how you can prioritize your to-do’s to ta-done’s.
How to Prioritize Tasks
Prepare: plan and prioritize your tasks in advance
Prioritizing helps you to see what you need to do each day, week, and month. That way, nothing creeps up on you last-minute – unless you decide to take on some rush jobs. It is a good idea to take some time at the beginning of each day, week, and month to look at your schedule and make adjustments if you need to by crossing off the ones you have completed and adjusting the status of ongoing tasks.
Create and maintain your task list
Writing your to-do’s down allows you to see exactly what you need to do. This will help you eliminate a lot of the mental clutter that interferes with you working efficiently. There is nothing quite like trying to pay attention and get things done when you have nagging thoughts about washing dishes or buying new stationery!
Review your list at the end of every day to cross off completed tasks and update ongoing projects’ status. Consider whether any tasks are redundant. Be aware of the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ - feeling like you need to complete something because you have already invested a lot of time and resources into it. If it is no longer relevant, remove it from being a priority.
Identify Urgent vs Important Tasks
Identify and distinguish between what is urgent and what is important. Urgent projects involve tasks that you need to complete sooner rather than later. On the other hand, important tasks have greater significance or value.
For example, an urgent task could be one with a looming deadline, while an important task could be a project for a key client. Urgent tasks are likely going to depend on deadlines - either submission deadlines or payment deadlines.
How much time is required for a project?
Prioritize your projects based on how much time each task requires. More extensive projects might need to be broken up into segments and distributed throughout your week or month. This way, you can effectively and efficiently work on longer projects and more immediate projects simultaneously. When you plan your day/week/month, be realistic about how much time each project or task will take and how much time you have available to do it.
What about equally important or urgent tasks?
It could be challenging to decide what to do when you have two or more equally important or urgent tasks. Take the route of least resistance here: do whichever is more appealing to you. You are more likely to complete the project faster if it is something that you enjoy doing or that you know you can complete successfully in a short amount of time. There is some level of satisfaction in crossing things off of your to-do list. Take advantage of that good feeling and ride that wave into ticking off the next project while you are at it.
Prioritize your tasks so you can hit your deadlines
We all love those clients who are pretty laid back and flexible. Those clients who let you set your own deadlines with plenty of flexibility. It might be tempting to push projects for these clients back if something more urgent or important comes up. Unless there is no other way around it, treat these deadlines as hard deadlines. Just because a customer is less demanding and more understanding than others doesn’t mean you can get flaky.
Schedule time for non-billable work.
Freelancing doesn’t only involve completing the projects that you are getting paid for. There is plenty of admin involved to maintain and grow your business like invoicing, marketing, and general business-related admin. Block off time to dedicate to these tasks. You might choose to use one day a week to focus on these tasks or dedicate some time to one or two each morning before digging into the work that you are getting paid for.
Prioritizing your tasks can help you feel less stressed, overwhelmed, and burned out. It gives you guidance and structure and even allows you to work more effectively and efficiently.