Prioritizing Your Work

15.02.2016 |

Episode #6 of the course How to create a productivity system by Paul Minors


The problem of prioritization originates from one simple feeling—there just isn’t enough time. Imagine for a second that time wasn’t an issue. Imagine we’re all immortal and could live forever. If this were the case, the issue of having a long to-do list wouldn’t be nearly as much of a problem. But because we’re not immortal and there are only a set number of hours in the day, we’re left with the feeling that there’s just not enough time to do all the things we want to get done.

In order to combat this issue of not knowing what to work on next, there are a couple of tactics you can use.


Refer back to your goals and vision

First—and this should come as no surprise—you should refer to your top-level goals and vision to remind yourself of the outcome you’re working toward. This is why writing a clear and measurable goal is so important in the first place. It outlines the purpose of your work and defines where you’re trying to get to.

Simply ask yourself, “If I had to pick just three things to work on that are going to advance me toward this goal, which three are going to have the biggest impact?”


Work on some easy stuff to build momentum

If you’re still struggling, then take a leaf out of Mark Zuckerberg’s book:

I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of  progress.”

Ticking off a few easy items can be a great way of getting the ball rolling before you tackle some trickier tasks.


Add “context” to your task list

A great way of working out what to work on is to work on the things most relevant to your current situation, i.e., based on where you are, who you’re with, the tools you have, and the amount of time/energy you have.


6.1 Productivity System


When creating new tasks on your to-do list, you can use tags or labels (depending on the app you’re using) to add context to a task. Here are some common tags or labels you could use:

• Low-energy
• High-energy
• Urgent
• Work
• Home
• Errands
• Mobile
• Desktop
• Email
• 5 minutes
• 25 minutes
• 60 minutes

So how does this help with prioritization? Your situation is going to change throughout the day, and your contexts act as filters for working out what to focus on based on your current situation. Sometimes you’re going to have more time and energy than others. For example, if you only have 15 minutes before your next meeting, refer to your “5 minute” tasks and see how many you can get through between now and the meeting.


Mistakes to avoid

If you don’t take the time to establish clear and specific goals, this makes it harder to prioritize what to work on, as you’re unsure about what your work is leading toward.

Try not to go overboard with the number of tags you set up. Think about the contexts that are most relevant for you and the work that you’re doing.


Action step: Set up your tags

Refer back to your newly organized task list and add some tags to group common tasks based on their context. Assigning time- and energy-based tags are great places to start.


Next lesson

Tomorrow, you’ll learn how to set up your calendar so you can start to plan your time more effectively.


Recommended resources

Modes, Themes & Maps with Mike Vardy

9 Ways to Use Todoist Labels to Manage Task List Overwhelm


Recommended book

“The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg


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