Career Success

How Do You Get To The Things That Are Never Prioritized?

By EverwiseMarch 15, 2017

Whether we’re focusing on higher-priority tasks, or we just don’t have the time, certain tasks tend to fall to the bottom of our to-do lists day after day.

Some things are just more important than others. But just because they’re lower on the priority list, doesn’t mean you should completely forget about them. So how can you make sure these tasks get completed?

When asked what their tips are for completing tasks that always get bumped, here’s what our community had to say:

Try Time Blocking

We set aside specific times for meetings, appointments, and even meals, so it makes sense to set aside time to complete lower-priority tasks too. Harry Jigamian says that if you ignore smaller tasks, they can suddenly get bigger and take you away from your core focus. “I like to block out an hour every Thursday or Friday afternoon (slower times) to check off some of the smaller items on my list.”

Kimberly Lochhead agrees that time blocking is a great strategy, especially if you’re someone who has a full day of back-to-back meetings. “I block off time in my calendar so others can’t book me for those slots and I name them by project. When I get a calendar alert, it tells me I have the next hour dedicated to working on those tasks.” Although the time of day may vary, try choosing a certain day and time period and be consistent, such as a Friday afternoon.

Once you block out the time in your calendar, make sure your employees and colleagues know about your blocked time. This will ensure you have the best chance of being uninterrupted or distracted. Kirstin Reblin recommends getting away from the office. She says, “I even told one of my clients to select one afternoon to work from home. It was not possible for him to focus on completing his tasks, as he kept getting interrupted by his surroundings.”

If you’re concerned that you just don’t have the time to block out, you might be getting ahead of yourself. Hilda Kariuki says that the block of time doesn’t need to be huge — take small steps and see how far you go. On the first day, for example, focus on brainstorming and the next day focus on a different aspect of the task. Hilda suggests, “We fail to prioritize it if the task seems too daunting. When you break it down into chunks, it become less overwhelming.” This can work individually, or in a group setting as well.

Re-evaluate the importance

Just because they made the bottom of your to-do list at one time, doesn’t mean that these tasks  have to remain there until they’re completed. Priorities often change and something that may have been a necessity at one time may no longer be. Kim Bolton’s first step is to determine why the task wasn’t prioritized in the first place,“I have learned that if there is something that keeps falling off the list, it is sometimes because it isn’t really critical.” She points out that deciding what not to do can be just as important as deciding what to do.

Gerson Montenegro suggests that eliminating the least critical tasks to spend more time on what really matters can actually be one of the most effective time management strategies. He points out that time is a precious commodity. “Prioritization is not about the order or priority in which you will do everything, but rather what you will and will not do.”

Categorize your tasks

You have a to-do list and have it prioritized, but what about taking it a step further and categorizing it? Both Kim Renshaw and Geoff Wing place tasks in the following categories: Urgent & Important, Not Urgent & Important, Urgent & Not Important and Not Urgent & Not Important. Renshaw elaborates that it’s easy to think you need to do everything, but sometimes the things that are important are not urgent, and vice versa. This will give you a better idea of not only what truly needs to get done, but what can potentially be allocated to someone else. It’s also important to review the list and update the categories accordingly, something Wing does once a week.

Consider putting them to the side

The idea of putting your lower priority tasks to the side might seem counterproductive, but it can actually have the opposite effect. If you have items on your list that you know you’re not going to get to anytime soon, you might consider creating a separate list for them. Kate Bankert calls it a “Don’t List,” which describes everything you’re not going to work on in a given time period. She then revisits the Don’t List as a priority when planning for the next period.

Wendy Khuu keeps a log of her tasks and their due dates, something she considers a “must.” However, she isn’t afraid to work on them gradually. She says, “I usually aim to complete one per week or one per month depending on the size. Slow progress is still progress!”

Stay organized

No matter how many tasks you have on your list and how many you do not complete, staying organized is key. Murthy Rachakonda Sree Rama says keeping a record of his tasks helps. He noted, “When I did not do this, my overall efficiency in completing tasks dropped dramatically.” Not only should you keep a list, but make sure to continuously re-visit it—at the end of the day, the week, and the month. “As we tick off the items on completion during review, that becomes motivation,” he says.

James Phetteplace compares his organization idea to those that IT Departments use. He says, “Most IT Department have a means for creating ‘tickets’ in a platform where issues, tasks, and requests are documented, prioritized, and assigned. Personally, I would not be able to stay on top of the small/medium tasks without using a tool like this.” He suggests trying a platform such as Zendesk, or a free tool such as Google Keep or Inbox. But finding a platform is only half the battle. Once you have the right tool, it then becomes an issue of self-discipline. As Phetteplace puts it, “These tools are no good if you don’t use them regularly and consistently.”

In summary, when tackling low-priority tasks:

  • Block out times in which you focus solely on these tasks
  • Take another look at how important these tasks really are
  • Create new categories
  • Don’t be afraid to put them aside as long as you revisit them later
  • Organization is key

Interested in learning more? Join the Everwise mentor community and read the full discussion here.



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