This is probably the most pressing topic for me. I am always looking for ways to increase my productivity. I love to plan and decompose my day, but I don’t like moments when I don’t have time for something or postpone it. This has started to happen more and more often lately.
And then I began to think about some kind of system of priorities for tasks.
The first thing I realized is that each task should have its own weight. How to correctly calculate the weight of the task? I do not do this somehow specifically, I do it more intuitively, based on the criteria that are important to me.
The first criterion is time.
Let’s say I have 15 tasks I want to complete today, 5 of them will take more than 5 hours of my time, and the other 10 will not take more than 3 hours.
The second criterion is urgency.
How urgent is it to get this task done? Is there someone waiting for me to do it so I can get on with my task?
The third criterion is importance.
How important is this task to the project I’m doing? How will doing it affect the further execution of the project?
Based on these 3 criteria, I have developed 3 categories of priorities that I use on an ongoing basis for myself.
3 categories of priorities
Prioritizing tasks helps you focus on what’s really important. According to Pareto’s principle — 20% of tasks will produce 80% of the results, so the key goal of prioritizing is to understand that 20% of tasks so you can do them first.
Here’s what priorities look like in my personal Todoist:
I plan tasks exclusively for the day, anything beyond that, I put a special tag Later.
Now let’s talk about the other priorities:
- Must-Have Today are key tasks I will do first. These are the most important tasks. Within this tag, I divide tasks by urgency. If the urgency is about the same, then the next thing I look at is how long I’m going to do it. I usually do the longest tasks first.
- Could-Have Today are fewer key tasks that are desirable to get done today, but I won’t be too upset if I don’t get them done today. These are tasks that are not urgent or important.
- Later is simply speaking, my inbox. I will add there all the things I want to do, watch or study.
This system is very simple and that’s its main advantage. I don’t need to make a separate matrix to prioritize tasks for the day. I just don’t want to waste time on it. I’ve tried it before, I’ll say it’s an unnecessary complication that only gets in the way.
How do I use it?
Every morning I start my day by looking at the Could-Have Today category of the previous day (if I didn’t get anything done) and start setting priorities, and after that, I start looking at the Later tag and add tasks from there for today.
I always do this exclusively in the morning because my mind is incredibly clear and deep-focused in the morning. It helps me get the workload right and highlight the actual 20% of the tasks that will yield 80% of the results.
Which tool to choose?
In fact, you can use anything you want. But I highly recommend looking at the Todoist tool. It’s an incredibly simple tool that doesn’t have anything extra at all. Just so you understand, last year I was in the top 1% of all users in terms of activity.
When they start recommending to me something complicated, or advanced to keep track of my tasks, my response is always that it doesn’t make sense. I use a simple system and I want the tool to be the same. I’d rather spend the effort to get my tasks done than on a complicated setup to prioritize them.
The key idea is that you can’t complicate anything. You can create the perfect system of 10 priorities and sub-priorities, but I guarantee you that in six months you’ll just get bored of doing it. The brain doesn’t like to do extra work, so let’s keep it simple.
Remember Steve Jobs’s quote: «You don’t have to work 18 hours a day, you have to work with your head».
Partly it is correct, partly it is not. But the truth here is exactly that when you work with your head, you get a lot more done than when you just grab any task and start doing it. Planning and prioritizing are the keys that will help you walk through the doors of effective self-management.
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