Life hack

How to master the art of prioritization

Disciplined prioritization is arguably the most important competency for decision-makers and companies of any size. The ability to execute on your vision and goals with effective priorities and roadmaps can be the difference between success and failure for your business.

The cost of poor prioritization (or no prioritization at all) is largely influenced by your company size, sector, and region. Research shows that lack of prioritization is a universal challenge and one of the leading causes of waste for organizations.

Looking at the example of IT deployments in North America,В Gartner’s researchВ revealed that out of the $1 to $2 trillion invested annually, 30% or $300 to $600 billion is wasted. Much of this waste can be attributed to not “doing the right work”.В

Of course, sometimes leaders simply make mistakes and prioritize the wrong tasks – we’re all human! But more often than that, the problem is that leaders don’t prioritize at all. This issue comes down to broken or missing prioritization workflows and activities.В

Strategy and prioritization are ongoing and ever-evolving tasks. They are constantly influenced by changing internal and external conditions. Strategies and planning workspaces can become outdated the moment certain parameters change. That’s why it’s essential to have a process in place that facilitates real-time, agile roadmapping.В

Here are 4 steps to optimize your decision-making process:В

The prioritization process itself comes down to a calculation of two competing factors:

1. TheВ value В of pursuing a given project, feature, or initiative

2. The relatedВ costs

You don’t want to stop here though. Your value and cost factors are usually multi-dimensional and include a range of sub-criteria that could even be weighted differently, for example:

On the value side, this could mean questioning whether a mid-term rise in revenue is more important than long-term strategic fit?

Or on the cost side, whether the development effort is more crucial for product success than the marketing dollars spent?

Sometimes this can feel like comparing apples and oranges, but mapping out the right criteria is the first key step to bring clarity to the process.В

Check out ourВ detailed guide on how to set up a prioritization framework В yourself or just pick one of ourВ ready to use templates В built on the most effective decision-making methods that can guide you through this process.В

TIP: Once you have defined and weighted the value and cost drivers, ideally between 2 and 5 criteria per factor, map them out as columns in a table to allow you to visualize the process.

Once you have added your items to the table, you can start rating them for each of the value and cost drivers that you defined in Step 1. This creates a prioritized list based on data and objective factors.

It’s wise to include collaborators in this part of the process to identify potential obstacles and to resolve any concerns that may impact decisions in the long run.

TIP: Transparency and communication are key to productive roadmapping. Involving the right team members and stakeholders helps to communicate your roadmap more effectively so everyone is on the same page.

With all items being scored you can now evaluate priorities and map them out on a 2×2 matrix. Having priority scores and visualized charts to hand allows you to discuss your priorities with your team and stakeholders and make decisions on the following:

Which items hold priority? Which items don’t.

What is the timeline?

Who is in charge?

Visualizing your priorities in this way eradicates the need to make decisions based on gut feelings. It also makes it easier to get buy-in from the wider business on your decisions when you can communicate an objective business case.

Now that you have a roadmap based on actual priorities, it’s important to share it with operational teams on the ground in a language that they can understand. Kanbans or timelines are effective formats to communicate your priority matrix. This step is key to make sure everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals.

TIP: Remember that ongoing communication allows your team to work in an agile fashion. Make sure to schedule regular check-ins and team meetings to sync your strategic priorities to guarantee successful implementation.

Bringing structure and data-driven insights into your prioritization process is a sure-fire way to increase the success rates of your strategic projects, initiatives, or features. Real-time roadmapping is the most effective way to execute projects in both a systematic and agile way and drive ROI for your business. Update: We created a video for this article to make it easier to read, share, and understand.

It’s time to get started. Put the airfocus prioritization templates to test with ourВ 14-day free trial В and find out in minutes what you should focus on.

How to master the art of prioritization


Mar 30, 2016 · 4 min read

How to master the art of prioritization

T he term ‘Smart work’ is creating all the buzz these days. Every best-selling self-help book is stressing on the importance of smart work, yet a lot of us seem confused as to what it really implies. Well for me, the first step to working smart is to learn how to set priorities. If you really want to take charge of things, know how to prioritize. Probably that’s why they say, “it’s all about priorities”. Because, it really is. After all, when something is important to you, you will find time from your schedule no matter what.

So, c an the art of prioritization be helpful at workplace?

Definitely it can be, because priority is a stimulant that keeps us awake. It’s a constant reminder that something needs to be accomplished. It is like a dose to the brain that keeps us active until the goal is reached. Accomplishing more in less becomes possible for real. Work becomes more enjoyable and things get lot easier to do. And, the best part is that the person feels more in control of his routine and life.

So, it really is all about convincing your mind that a certain piece of work needs attention. And, that it is important. That’s why the art of prioritization is so important to each one of us who find themselves constantly navigating a maze of unmet responsibilities.

Prioritization: creates concern, not stress

Prioritization tricks your mind into being disciplined, which creates a sense of urgency or should I say, concern. But, let’s not confuse the term ‘concern’ with ‘stress’. The two are entirely different things. Concern is a positive term; if you simply aren’t concerned about something, you won’t even do it. Stress on the other hand hampers your productivity. When you are neither concerned, nor stressed you become careless which makes you a slacker. And, most of the times we are either too stressed or just too careless until half the day is already gone, and then we start frenzying. Both the things are not good.

When you prioritize things, you feel concerned, which is a good thing. You don’t spend unnecessarily long hours doing one thing, while everything else goes undone creating a bundle of unaccomplished tasks. Prioritization lays the foundation of self-discipline. It generates that sense of concern. But the question is how to prioritize things? How to know which tasks should be given higher priority than the others?

Well, here are some tips that can help:

  • Sort tasks on the basis of relevance

You may be tempted to do what seems easiest at the moment or what you personally want to do. But that’s not really the way to go about it. In order to create a to-do list in accordance with highest priority is to determine its relevance factor. What matters the most at this very moment? Give some thought to all the tasks that need attention throughout the day. Do carry things out as per their relevance in context with time factor.

  • Set estimated time for each task

Depending on the number of tasks that you typically carry out in a day, allocate appropriate amount of time to each task. Try to complete the task within the allotted time frame. Don’t worry if are you are not able to do things within allotted timeframe. The idea is to at least start instilling a sense of discipline instead of just doing things randomly.

  • Set most productive hours for most important tasks

Different people find different hours ideal for work. There are times when you are able to do things without much efforts. And then there are times when it seems to be taking forever to do even the little things. It’s because sometimes the focus is through the roof while other times it is totally missing. Find out what time of the day is most productive for you. If you feel morning time is when your concentration is highest, use it for most detail-oriented tasks. If you feel better focused sometime later in the day, then accordingly adjust your work plan.

At first, it may seem like sticking to a routine will restrict you. But the truth is that sticking to a well-planned routine makes life easier and a lot less stressful. It’s not binding, but in fact leaves you with plenty of extra time on hands. You will just have to try it once. A few minutes of prioritizing and planning can go a long way in improving your productivity and helping you gain more control over things.

If you’ve enjoyed the writing, don’t forget to heart and share the post. 🙂

How to master the art of prioritization

“It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?”

– Henry David Thoreau

Have you ever had one of those days where you find yourself at the end of the day in sheer disbelief wondering where all the time had gone?

If so, fret not, you’re definitely not alone. Like you, I too have had those days where time seem to slipped out of my hand and disappeared into thin air.

As stubborn as I was, eventually I came to a crucial, life-changing realization: Run the day or it runs you.

No matter who we are or what tasks and responsibilities we have on our plate, one thing remains true – we all get the same 24 hours in a day to get them done.

Though it all seems overwhelming at times, it is more than possible to be productive, have some time set aside for ourselves AND stay sane in the process. How can make this possible you asked? The secret lies in making priorities.

Below, you’ll find 5 simple steps that have helped me in mastering the art of prioritization.

I hope that they’ll be as helpful to you in making the most of your time on a daily basis and get you closer to living a life you truly love!

1. Define your priorities

How to master the art of prioritization

To master the art of prioritization, we must begin by defining our priorities. In order to so thoroughly and thoughtfully, make a conscious commitment to take 1 – 2 hours of your day, perhaps on the weekend, to list down all your commitments and responsibilities.

Once you jot them down on a list, be honest to yourself and take out anything that is not actually important to you.

If you’re finding it difficult to eliminate things off your plate, go down the list and ask yourself whether that commitment or responsibility can contribute in helping you to become your best self as well as whether it is helping you to move towards living the life that you desperately crave.

If the answer is resounding “yes!”, it’s a keeper. If the answer is no, then do yourself a huge favor and cross it off the list. When you’re done, you should only have about 5 things that you should truly be making time for.

2. Jot down your usual daily to-do list

How to master the art of prioritization

List all the things that you usually do on a daily or regular basis. This includes everything from making your meals, checking emails, going to the gym, paying the bills etc.

Once you have the full list, check the ones that are aligned with the priorities you’ve defined on step 1. The tasks that do, you would list under “important”, while the others would fall under the “urgent” tasks category.

3. Cut back the urgent stuff

How to master the art of prioritization

If you feel that you are constantly busy yet somehow feel as if you’re not really being productive, chances are, you’ve been confusing the ‘important’ stuff with the ‘urgent’ stuff.

In short, you’ve been letting the things you consider as urgent to take control of your time and as a result, the things that actually matter to you aka the important stuff, become sacrificed in the process.

Have a look through your urgent list and take out anything that you can eliminate or minimize. For example, instead of checking emails/ social media every 30 minutes, designate a couple of slots during the day to check them.

This alone can save you quite a bit of time as one email can lead you to spending precious hours glued to the web – time than can be better spent on the important things e.g: whip yourself a delicious & healthy meal.

Keep in mind that though cleaning out some of these urgent stuff to make space for the stuff that matters will seem painful at first, but it will be worthwhile as it’ll allow you to live a more balanced, productive and most importantly, a well spent life.

4. Create a *new* daily to-do list

How to master the art of prioritization

Now that you’ve defined your priorities as well as pin point as to what the important and urgent tasks are, it’s time to create a new & fresh to do list.

This list should look quite different than your original daily to do list as it will reflect more tasks and responsibilities that are aligned with your priorities. They should consists more of the important stuff and less of the urgent stuff.

On a daily basis, I would create a to-do list for the following day, just before I go to bed or the first thing I do in the morning before I get on with the day. It would typically only take me no more than 5 minutes.

In addition to the task itself, I would also label whether they are urgent or important as well as note down the estimated time it would take me to complete each task. As I consider myself an “old-school” gal so instead of jotting them on my phone, tablet or computer, I prefer to write down my daily tasks on paper/ notepad.

That said, many find a digital apps such as Evernote to be more efficient & practical when noting down to do lists. The choice is yours.

For work related meetings and even for personal appointments, Google Calendar has been my saving grace.

In addition to listing all scheduled meetings, it comes with an automated reminder that we can set according to our preference, it’s a great way to make sure that I don’t miss out on any appointments made. Not using it yet? I highly recommend you to give it a try!

5. Stick to your list & schedule

How to master the art of prioritization

It’s important to keep in mind that simply making lists and schedules won’t make an impact nor change your life unless you stick to it and commit to do the work.

Like everything else, you can pretty much expect resistance on your end to follow through with this change. Don’t give into temptation to revert to your old ways.

Remember that you’ll never change your life until you change you do daily. As one of the most renowned leadership author, John C. Maxwell, said “The secret of your success is found in your daily routine!”.

That said, you can certainly give yourself some flexibility in terms on determining what works and what doesn’t work for you. If you find that you’ve bitten more than you can chew, take a step back and re-asses as on what would work better for you.

Do keep in mind in order to get what you never had, you need to do what you’ve never done.

Old habits die hard and change is a gradual process that requires patience. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes you a bit of time to become more productive.

Give yourself credit for making the commitment and effort to start aligning your daily actions with what is most important to you. Now, go do something that the future you will thank you for! 🙂

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to make a to do list, but how much harder it is to actually finish it? Prioritization makes a huge difference when it comes to actually completing that task list. The trick is to be as ruthless as you can stand.

How to Prioritize When Everything Is Important

Sure, it’s great to make a to-do list, but how do you prioritize the tasks—especially when…

This post originally appeared on the Zapier blog .

Be ruthless with your task list until you only have one task to focus on right now, so you can’t help but get to work. At least, that’s what it usually takes for me to get stuck in!

Prioritization is really hard, because it’s mostly about saying no. I’ve ordered these methods of prioritization to ease you in, with the most ruthless ones at the end. Let’s dive in.

Analyze Your Task List

Let’s start by looking for any tasks that can be dumped completely. Delegation is a perfect way to quickly cut down your task list—is there anything you’re waiting on others for? Get it off your list. Put it somewhere you won’t forget it, like a follow-up list or a shared project, but getting it off your normal to do list will relieve the pressure of seeing it there all the time.

Next, take all of the tasks that do apply to you and put them where they belong in this priority matrix from Steven Covey:

Anything that’s due soon (or overdue) counts as urgent. As for what’s truly important and what’s more of a “nice to do” task is up to you, but try to be as honest as you can. Anything that’s setting you up for long-term success could be counted as important, such as relationship building, personal health or growth activities or preventive maintenance.

This tool is particularly helpful for those times when you’re drowning under a million things to do, as it helps you to visualize what’s really important and what can wait. Once you’ve laid out your tasks, aim to get through the urgent and important tasks so you’re not butting up against deadlines. Then you can focus on the most productive quadrant: important but not urgent. These are the tasks that are easy to put off, but provide lots of value when they do get done.

And whatever you do, avoid the busy work and time wasters that land in the not urgent and not important quadrant as much as you can.

Master the Art of the To-Do List by Understanding How They Fail

The to-do list is an inescapable, age-old productivity tool. It is our very human attempt to create

Make a List for Today

Now that you can more clearly see what needs doing straight away, make a to do list for today only. Ignore everything else you could be doing (until you’re ready to plan tomorrow’s list).

I like to include any calendar events on my “Today” list, so I see an overview of my entire day and set my expectations accordingly. This also stops me from planning too many tasks on days I’m in meetings for hours.

A good rule of thumb when planning out your day is to underestimate how much you can get done and overestimate how long each task will take. No doubt you’ve got plenty of things to be going on with if you check everything off your list for today, which is a much better feeling that always moving unfinished tasks over to tomorrow.

Use MITs

MIT stands for “Most Important Tasks.” I often advocate for using MITs , because they’ve really helped me to write more realistic to do lists. It’s a process of choosing just a few (usually three) tasks to get done per day.

When using MITs, your to do list would have 1-3 of these and anything else listed would become bonus, “nice to do if you have the time” tasks. You only work on bonus tasks if all your MITs are done, and if all you get through are your MITs, you’ve still had a successful day.

It’s very simple: your MIT is the task you most want or need to get done today. – Leo Babauta, Zen Habits

Pick a Single Focus

We’re getting into ruthless territory now. When you’re really struggling to get anything done, you may need to try this method, even temporarily.

When you look at your task list or your MITs for today, pick a single thing to focus on. It could be one big task you really want to get done, or it could be a theme that relates to several of your tasks, like “increase sales.” Choosing a single task or idea to focus on can be a good way to remind yourself to stay on track whenever you find yourself getting distracted.

Google Chrome extensions like Momentum and Limitless are great for these reminders, as they show you what your focus is for today each time you open a new browser tab.

Find Your 20 Percent Task

You’ve probably heard of this idea before, known as the Pareto principle : you tend to get 80% of your results from 20% of your work. You can easily outsource some of the 80% that’s not getting you great results , but what’s really tricky is working out what that 20% is that brings in the results. Once you do, you can apply the ultimate ruthless prioritization to your workday: make finishing your 20% work your priority—and your benchmark for a productive day.

The best way I’ve found to identify my 20% work is this simple exercise: first, ask yourself what you’d work on if you could only do three things today. Be ruthless; only pick three. Next, cut that down to two. And finally, just one. If you absolutely had to stop working after doing just one task, which would you do?

It’s a really tough question to answer, since we all have so many things to get through each day, but I’ve found it’s a good way to realize which of your tasks provides the biggest value when it’s finished. For me, writing a new blog post would almost always be my 20% work, since I get returns from writing in various ways—future SEO traffic, social shares and inbound traffic, more visibility for my personal brand and the site I’m writing for, and so on.

I use a combination of these methods depending on how much work I have to get through, how much I’m struggling to get started and what kind of prioritization I need help with. As you practice being ruthless with your to do list, you’ll find it gets easier and you’ll be able to pick the right method at the right time. And hopefully you’ll find that ruthless prioritization can actually be quite liberating!

Belle is a co-founder of Exist , a personal analytics platform to help you track and understand your life. She is a writer at Crew and was previously Buffer’s first Content Crafter and Head of Content at Attendly.

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When children move into middle school and high school, it becomes more important than ever to manage their time effectively. With multiple subjects and teachers, it can become burdensome to keep track of everything and many children struggle at homework time with where to begin. While a solid time management system is critical, to keep homework time moving along, your child needs to master the art of prioritization. This helps you save time by identifying tasks that deserve immediate attention, those that are important but less pressing, and those that can be considered “long-term” to-dos.

How can you help your child become an expert at prioritizing and getting things accomplished more quickly? Here are several tips:

Keep a running master to-do list. Each night, your child should review his or her list of tasks for all classes, separated by subject. This list should contain any to-dos for this week, next week or further out, including nightly homework and upcoming tests, quizzes and projects.

Put due dates next to each task. Make sure your child keeps tabs on what homework is due the following day and what is not due until later in the week or the following week. Every item on the master to-do list should have a due date next to it.

Designate levels of importance. Before diving into homework, your child should rank all tasks. You might encourage him or her to use A, B and C levels of importance. For example, on Monday, a math test, a vocabulary assignment due, and chapter to read by Tuesday would be “A” priorities, whereas assignments due Wednesday would be considered “B” priorities, and anything due Thursday, Friday, or the following week “C” priorities.

Divide up the “A” priorities. Once your child has the “A” list in front of him or her, it’s time to quickly decide in what order things need to be completed. A good rule of thumb is to focus on the most difficult tasks earlier in the evening, but each child is different. If your child prefers to check off easier tasks before digging into the more challenging or time-consuming ones, that’s fine as well. When it comes to “B” priorities, your child should include the top one or two in his or her nightly homework list. A test on Friday, for example, deserves some study time on Tuesday and Wednesday and should be bumped up to an “A” priority on Thursday night.

Embrace the student planner. Prioritizing is meant to help your child use his or her time wisely. It’s an exercise best tackled with a calendar or planner on hand because most children have more than just school on their plates. For example, if your child has a heavy night of extracurricular activities on Tuesday, he or she should account for that on his list of Monday night homework priorities. Make sure your child blocks out time for activities on the calendar so he or she has an accurate picture of how much time is available for homework and studying each evening.

When your child masters the art of prioritization, you will discover that homework time is smoother and offers fewer opportunities to get sidetracked or stalled on less important tasks. Teach your child to embrace this consistent approach to getting started on homework each night and you will notice him or her taking ownership, staying on top of the multitude of demands that school has, and feeling less stressed overall.

How to master the art of prioritization

[The following is excerpted from “Using Risk Assessment to Prioritize Security Tasks and Processes,” a new report posted this week on Dark Reading’s Risk Management Tech Center.]

Information security practitioners are in an increasingly difficult position in most enterprises for several reasons. For one thing, changes in how enterprises adopt, deploy and use technology have raised the complexity bar for the environments that practitioners are charged with defending.

For example, virtualization, cloud and mobile technologies have expanded the footprint of technology in the enterprise — and along with it the security practitioner’s scope of responsibility. At the same time, the number of compromise methods is increasing: Attackers have become more sophisticated, there are more of them, and they espouse a variety of motivations.

Given all of this, it’s clear why the remit of security practitioners is more challenging than it used to be. But despite the rise in environmental complexity, spending is relatively stagnant. For example, the most recent Global State of Information Security Survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that fewer than half of the organizations surveyed expect information security budgets to increase. This is why prioritization is so important in a security context — not only does security investment need to stretch further, there’s less room for error when the stretching occurs.

This question of prioritization then becomes one of the key elements (not to mention benefits) of formalized risk management techniques. For organizations that aren’t using formalized risk management methods, prioritization is an acutely felt pain point.

But even for organizations that have employed these techniques, technical prioritization often requires further analysis in order for them to be effectively put into practice. In other words, risk management efforts performed at a high level might fail to take into account the specifics of the technical environment, leaving room for interpretation or further prioritization down the line.

In any case, the art of prioritization can help enterprises master the science of security. In this Dark Reading report, we recommend how to adapt elements of risk management that address prioritization in mitigation efforts for use at the technical level. This technique isn’t always easy — and organizations must have some prerequisites in place in order to leverage it fully — but it is a necessity for security to perform optimally. It’s no longer possible to defend everything equally, so focusing on specific, strategic areas of concern is a must.

At a high level, the risk management process can be thought of as iterative, encompassing a number of key steps. These include:

• Identify: The process of determining the possible risks that a given organization might have

• Assess: Determining the degree to which the organization is susceptible

• Mitigate: The process of treating risks — for example, by avoiding, remediating, transferring or accepting the risk (that is, determining that the risk cannot be practically or practicably offset)

• Monitor: Keeping track of the risk over time to ensure that it doesn’t increase, to determine if it’s exploited and to inform future decision-making if it’s obviated.

To learn more about the process of risk assessment — and how to translate the results into a prioritized action list — download the free report.

Have a comment on this story? Please click “Add a Comment” below. If you’d like to contact Dark Reading’s editors directly, send us a message.

How to master the art of prioritization

How to master the art of prioritization

Knowing how to prioritize work affects the success of your project, the engagement of your team, and your role as a leader. All projects—especially large, complex projects—need clear priorities. Easier said than done. You can count on technical projects, no matter how well-planned, to involve change orders, re-prioritization and the regular appearance of surprises. It’s just the natural order of things.

One of the biggest challenges for project managers and leaders is accurately prioritizing the work that matters on a daily basis. Even if you have the best project management software on the planet, you’re the one who enters information into the tool. And, you don’t want to fall into the role of crying “top priority” for every other project that comes down the pike.

Just as you have to be diligent and have the right kind of project insight to ensure that nobody’s working on yesterday’s priorities. It takes a lot of practice to get this right.

To help you manage your team’s workload and hit deadlines, here are 6 steps to prioritizing projects that have a lot of moving parts.

1. Collect a list of all your tasks.

Pull together everything you could possibly consider getting done in a day. Don’t worry about the order or the number of items upfront.

2. Identify urgent vs. important.

The next step is to see if you have any tasks that need immediate attention. We’re talking about work that, if not completed by the end of the day or in the next several hours, will have serious negative consequences (missed client deadline; missed publication or release deadlines, etc.). Check to see if there are any high-priority dependencies that rely on you finishing up a piece of work now.

How to master the art of prioritization

3. Assess value.

Next, look at your important work and identify what carries the highest value to your business and organization. As a general practice, you want to recognize exactly which types of tasks have top priority over the others.

For example, focus on client projects before internal work; setting up the new CEO’s computer before re-configuring the database; answering support tickets before writing training materials, and so on. Another way to assess value is to look at how many people are impacted by your work. In general, the more people involved or impacted, the higher the stakes.

4. Order tasks by estimated effort.

If you have tasks that seem to tie for priority standing, check their estimates, and start on whichever one you think will take the most effort to complete. Productivity experts suggest the tactic of starting the lengthier task first. But, if you feel like you can’t focus on your meatier projects before you finish up the shorter task, then go with your gut and do that. It can be motivating to check a small task off the list before diving into deeper waters.

5. Be flexible and adaptable.

Uncertainty and change are given. Know that your priorities will change, and often when you least expect them to. But—and here’s the trick—you also want to stay focused on the tasks you’re committed to completing.

6. Know when to cut.

You probably can’t get to everything on your list. After you prioritize your tasks and look at your estimates, cut the remaining tasks from your list, and focus on the priorities that you know you must and can complete for the day. Then take a deep breath, dive in, and be ready for anything.

Organizations don’t just want to have broad goals that only top-level personnel are aware of – they want to set, track, and measure goals across the entire company. Download our new eBook to learn how your team can be using OKRs.

Leading and Managing Remote Teams Webinar: What We’ve Learned, What We’ve Proven, and How to Lead in the New World
Press Release: FarWell Partners with Local Businesses to Launch Forward 4 Families, a Sustainable Food System

FarWell Advisor Emeritus Shawn Belling outlines how to develop a ruthless prioritization discipline within your organization. Project managers and executive leadership teams will learn how to master prioritization and maximize team resources and efforts.

How to Create a Roadmap

At CloudCraze (now part of Salesforce), Shawn used this method to guide the company in the development of a road mapping and product governance process that would aid in providing high-value feature designs to the agile development team and delivery process. Today, he uses ruthless prioritization to coach Madison College leaders in prioritizing a multitude of projects.

Ruthless Prioritization Webinar Takeaways

  • Introduction to Ruthless Prioritization Methodology
  • Avoid 4 Common Prioritization Traps
  • Walk Through Steps to Effective Road Mapping

Meet the Ruthless Prioritization Webinar Presenter

How to master the art of prioritization

Shawn Belling M.S., PMI-ACP, PMP, CSP, [email protected]

Shawn is a proven leader in technology and project management with experience in Agile, product development, IT program delivery and implementation, [email protected], and strategic planning. He is currently the Chief Information Officer at Madison College as well as adjunct faculty at UW-Madison, UW-Platteville, and University of Southern California.

He continues to offer his expertise as a Senior Advisor Emeritus at FarWell where he provides change, project and risk management toward successful project execution and implementation. He was previously Vice President – Development & Support at Salesforce B2B Commerce (formerly CloudCraze Software).

Watch a Full Video of the Webinar

Complete the form below to watch a full video of the webinar and get access to downloadable materials to put learnings into practice in your organization.

How to master the art of prioritization

Inside This Issue

How to be more productive: Justin Rosenstein’s essential tips

How to take back your productivity with No Meeting Wednesday

Just pick something! (avoiding decision fatigue at work)

The process and math behind prioritization

How to become a master of your time

How to write the perfect task to move work forward

We all have a tendency to keep adding to our to-do lists; we often hear a voice that says, “Do more,” as if doing more equates to the value of work we’re producing. But this is a flawed strategy: taking on more has diminishing returns. You may get overworked, burn out, or feel chronically stressed by the scope of projects you’re taking on.

No person or team can do everything. Instead of doing more, you can learn when to stop: when adding work no longer adds significant value (just before the curve above turns downward). You and your team will gain insight into what work is most impactful and, ultimately, you’ll be more focused and productive.

Leaving the office no longer means leaving work

There used to be an easy check against constantly doing more: going home. But now that many of us can work from anywhere, leaving the office no longer means “leaving work.” While working all the time has become the new normal, both science and common sense say this is completely unsustainable.

The negative effects of constantly working are clear: More than 80 percent of Americans are stressed at work. Adults aged 18-33 experience more stress than any other age group, with work being the top reported source of stress according to a 2013 survey.

Prioritization shouldn’t be this complicated

There is no shortage of advice about how to prioritize. But typically, advice and frameworks (like the diagrams below) don’t help you make decisions during crunch time, when deciding what your team needs to get done today, this week, or this month is crucial.

How to master the art of prioritization

Coaches and productivity experts have developed charts, graphs, and matrices to help you prioritize, but prioritization shouldn’t be this complicated!

3 ways to prioritize your day

1. Start by setting goals

Start by thinking about what you’re doing and why. Set and record goals with your team for a specific time period. Make these goals accessible, so everyone can refer back to them frequently.

Get into a habit of evaluating your work and tasks in the context of your team’s goals. Your top priorities should align with these goals and help you get one step closer to achieving them. Once goals become the common decision-making framework for your team, it will be completely reasonable to say, “This is a great idea, but isn’t a priority for this time period. Let’s save this for later when we are focused on that goal.”

Asana tip: Track high-level goals, and every step between now and the successful completion of the goal, in Asana.

2. Keep your daily task list clutter free

Once your team is clear about the high-level goals, start prioritizing your tasks. Narrow down your daily task list to just 3 to 5 items (unless your tasks are very small).

Asana tip: Use Today, Upcoming, and Later sections in your My Task List in Asana to plan exactly what you’ll work on each day. This process should just take just a few minutes each day.

Consider these questions as you prioritize your tasks:

  • Does this task directly support the goals we set for this time period?
  • What do I absolutely have to accomplish today?
  • When does this need to get done by?
  • Am I excited about this?
  • Is my team excited about this?
  • Do I have the energy and brainpower required to do this effectively today/right now?

Once you have your task list set for the day, you will find that you are more productive, effective, and at ease when you start working.

3. Get more done

Once you have an uncluttered plan for the day, get started on your work. Getting going might be the most challenging “task” of all, since your highest-priority task may be what you are resisting the most. To move from procrastination to action, try breaking the task into smaller parts or reflecting on why you are avoiding the work.

“I’ve found an indispensable three-step process for reliably moving from procrastination to action: (1) face whatever I’m putting off, (2) be honest with myself or a friend about why it’s uncomfortable, and (3) identify one easeful next step.” Justin Rosenstein, Asana co-founder, How to Overcome Procrastination by Facing Discomfort on Linkedin

Leave room in your planning for unexpected tasks

Throughout the day, you’ll encounter distractions and hurdles that will lure you from your task list. Leave room in your planning for unexpected tasks, but feel empowered to respond to requests for your time by citing your priorities and team goals. Instead of saying, “I’m too busy,” say, “I would love to work on this, but I’m focused on goal X this week.”

Mastering the art of prioritization is one of the best ways to achieve more. By dedicating yourself to what’s most important to your team and eliminating the other options, you’ll be more productive, more valuable to your team, and have more time to relax.