Prioritize your tasks

Virtual First | Effectiveness Kit

Procrasti-work. Pseudo-work. Half-work. Work about work. Ever blazed through a full day of tasks, only to realize you didn’t do the ONE thing that mattered most? Crossing off to-dos may feel productive, but it doesn’t always lead to meaningful progress. Use this practice to identify your most important tasks and design your week around them.

30 MINS | PERSONAL EXERCISE

Step 1: Prioritize your tasks

Before you can prioritize your work, you’ve got to know what matters. At the beginning of each week, create a task list with all the things you think you need to do. Then add them to the prioritization worksheet below. When you’re done, reflect: How many tasks are truly important, and how many are just important?
Prioritization worksheet

Delegate, do, delete, or schedule?

Use this worksheet to understand which tasks matter most.

Prioritization worksheet

Step 2: Make some cuts

After you’ve identified what matters, it’s time to make room in your schedule for it. Start by eliminating what doesn’t matter. Saying no, whether it’s to someone else or even to ourselves, can be tough to do. So take a deep breath and remind yourself: Eliminating busywork will create space for impact.

  • Cross off tasks in your “delete” bucket.
  • Ask for help with tasks in the “delegate” bucket.
  • Open your calendar. Politely decline meetings you don’t need to be in, or delegate someone else to go. When declining a meeting, be direct but gracious. Here’s an example of how to decline:

Hi {name}, 

I’m experimenting with reducing the number of meetings I’m in so I can be more effective. I don’t think I need to be in this meeting. Would you mind attending on my behalf and sharing notes after? (If you need me, I’ll be here.)

Step 3: Schedule what matters

Now that you’ve reduced some noise, it’s time to design your schedule. Open your calendar for the week: 

  • Pull up tasks from your “Do It” and “Schedule It” buckets 
  • Block the amount of time you need for these 
  • If you need to meet with someone to get an important task done, schedule time for it 
  • Resolve any scheduling conflicts that come up 
  • Don’t forget to give your teammates a heads-up if your schedule impacts them
An example of a calendar schedule

3 easy wins

Build the habit

  • - Tomorrow: Write down your daily tasks first thing in the morning. What’s the ONE thing that matters?
  • Next month: Delegate one thing that needs to get done but not by you.
  • Quarterly: Plan your top priorities for the entire quarter.