In Part 1 of this series, I showed you some different ways to use your planner to help you prioritize your tasks. Now I realize this post should have come first. This post will help you decide what level of priority to assign to each task.
Sometimes you look at your to-do list and it’s hard to decide what to do first. Pay bills, exercise, finish report, update website, make vacation reservations: they all need to be done. But when? And in which order? Here are some tips to help you decide:
Do the time test: Look at each item on your to-do list and think: what would happen if you didn’t do that task in the next hour? What if you don’t do it today? This week? This month? For example if a bill is due today, you need to pay it immediately. If it’s not due until 3 weeks from now, you can fit it in some other time. This method is good if you need to knock out urgent tasks and to categorize emergent tasks (tasks that come up during the day that weren’t already on your to-do list).
Check your schedule: The time test doesn’t work for everything, though. Say your report isn’t due until next week, so it doesn’t seem that urgent. But look at your schedule for the upcoming week. How much time will you actually have available to work on your report? If your day today is fairly open and every day for the rest of the week is packed, suddenly your report is a higher priority today because today is the only day you’ll have time to work on it before it’s due.
In correct order: Sometimes you have to do something before you can do something else. For example if you need to organize your closet, you might need to buy some shelves or storage bins first.
Cumulative effects: Certain things need to be assigned a higher priority status even if they don’t seem urgent. These include exercise, home and car maintenance, relationships etc. Maybe nothing crucial will happen if you ignore these things for one day, but there is a massive cumulative effect if these things don’t happen on a regular basis. Carve out time every day for your health, relationships, and maintenance.
Fit in goals: Similar to the cumulative effects listed above, be sure to make your goal tasks a priority. For more information on why this is important and how to do it, see the post The Difference Between Goals and Priorities, and How To Make Yours The Same.
Lower priority tasks: With so many urgent and important tasks to take care of, it can be easy to put off lower-priority tasks indefinitely. Keep these from falling into the abyss of procrastination by keeping a running list of things that need to get done eventually, then specifically scheduling a time every week to work on them.
As you assign priority to each task, be sure to write it in the correct place according to priority/ urgency: today, this week, this month, etc. This will allow you to get things done in the right order, according to priority. You’ll know you’re on-task and getting everything done when it needs to be done.