6 Ways to Prioritize Tasks Better in Any Project

In The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson wrote,
"The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones."

Do you know the difference between your important and vital priorities? One might say that in the work/life balance, sleep is a pretty vital priority that often goes forgotten, especially in the start-up world!

And on that note, there are important and vital priorities in your business too. Spending the time to decide what matters most can be as simple as the process of paying down debts one credit card at a time, paying off the lowest balances first.

Do you know which priorities have the lowest balance? Which ones will take the most time to complete, versus how mission-critical they are to holding up other wheels in the project?

Below are six ways to prioritize tasks better, smarter, and in a way that won't create a lengthy priority out of creating new priorities!

1. Time

The most basic way to prioritize a task is to ascertain how much time you have to complete it. Is it due today? Is it due in a month? Your answer may mean working on it right away or moving on to a more urgent task.

Another element of time is how much you estimate the task will take to complete. If it's only five minutes, does it make sense to move it to the top of the queue and off your list?

If You're unsure of which task to complete first, ask yourself this question: If you only had two hours to work on one thing today, what would it be? Does one task jump out? Now go and do it!

2. Context

Are you in the right place to perform the task in question? Context can mean that environmental and resource requirements need to be met in order to complete a task.

For example, perhaps you're traveling and your laptop doesn't have InDesign on it needed to complete the task of updating that brochure You're working on. If it can't be done right now, delegate it or move on to the next task.

3. Resource Availability

Much like prioritizing by context, you can prioritize by available resources. You can't pour concrete without a cement truck, so if your resource isn't available, move on to the next task. Or better yet, check in with your cement crew to see if things are still on schedule to pour in the afternoon. Then move on.

4. Task Review

Do you have a process for prioritizing project addendums? You know, those phone calls and emails that creep up throughout the project with new ideas and updates?

Those tasks need to be integrated into whatever priority list you've already created. Performing a task review every week, possibly with the client, can help you spot new tasks that may need to get done first.

This may seem like giving yourself more work, but if you get into the habit of reviewing the week ahead, you'll gain the advantage of spotting trouble, hiccups and holdups in advance.

5. Fortune Telling

Some people are professional fortune tellers and psychics. Your customers and clients can benefit when you play that role for them.

Projects have twists and turns that occur during their lifecycle. Foresee when these things are happening and quickly mitigate their impact. The sooner you're able to spot these hiccups, the more time you'll have to craft an action-plan to combat them. These unexpected tasks become less unexpected with a watchful eye and professional experience.

6. The Magic Hat Trick

Sometimes you have so many tasks that your brain gets overwhelmed and completely melts down when you look at your task list. This leads to procrastination and is where the magic hat trick task management system can help get things done.

Instructions are as followes:
  • Write down all tasks on strips of paper
  • Place strips of paper with tasks on them into a bucket, hat or whatever container you have on hand
  • Shake the container and mix up the strips
  • Select one strip of paper and remove it from the bucket
  • Read and perform the task on the strip of paper
  • Discard paper when finished
  • Repeat until all tasks are finished and your container is empty
This trick might sound a little juvenile, but when a task list is too overwhelming to look at, this little trick keeps your mind focused on one thing at a time. You're not worried about what's coming up next because you can't see it. Your only mission is to empty that container. Simple but powerful.

These are some of the many ways to prioritize tasks. Do you have a special way of prioritizing what you need to accomplish? Share them with us in the comments.