Time management skills help you and your team work faster and more efficiently. In other words, you work smarter!
How to organize and prioritize your work successfully?
Find it hard to be on top of your work? Learn how to organize and prioritize your work in 8 easy steps
Do you feel like you go to work aimlessly? Not knowing exactly what you’re doing or what has to be done? Then you most likely need some help organizing and prioritizing your work!
Lack of engagement has been reported to be one of the major issues companies are battling. It was stated that 80% of workers were either actively disengaged or not engaged enough at work.
This is important not only so that you can improve your performance but also so that you can feel more motivated to actually do the work.
There is a lot that comes to play when planning how to push through what has to be done successfully. Not only should you think about what you want to accomplish but also how you’ll get there and what obstacles you may encounter.
1) Identify your goals
To know what and how to organise your work, you first have to figure out what goals you are trying to achieve. By doing this you can have clear visibility of what you’ll be working towards daily.
Make sure that these long-term goals are specific and measurable. Then, set a realistic deadline for it. For example, a goal like “increasing social media presence” has no numbers to compare yourself with. When would you know that you reached the finish line?
Instead, your goal could be “increasing referral traffic by 60% by the end of the year”. By being detailed on how to measure the goal and by what timeline it should be completed, it will be easier to measure your performance along the way.
Make sure to keep these goals visible so that you can remind yourself when you feel lost or uncertain about what decisions to take.
Companies that set performance goals quarterly can generate 31% more returns than those reassessing annually.
2) List what has to be done
Now that you know exactly what goals you’re trying to achieve, you can start listing the tasks necessary to get there. Create a list of all current tasks that are already assigned to you and any others that might be needed in the close future.
Let us clarify something quickly before we continue. What you are doing on this step, is in fact a to-do list. Most people might think that jotting down what you have to do is obvious and enough for being productive. However, keep in mind that studies show only 60% of to-do lists are actually completed. This is mainly because we try to add too much detail into our lists, and our poor human limitations don’t allow it to be achievable.
Pre-planning is critical for creating productive workflows. It’s the foundation of successfully organising your work in a realistic and maintainable manner. This is why you should also take into consideration any tasks or responsibilities that might come along the way. Don’t only focus on what has been assigned to you until today.
If you find it helpful, create a checklist to ensure that every important step is covered throughout the journey of completion. The worst scenario that can happen, is that you don’t realise how many steps are needed to complete a task. Then, you would find yourself rushing to get things done. Which as we all know, can lead to failure.
3) Analyse your workload
Now you should feel confident that you’ve jotted all the current and future projects that you’ll need to tackle. The next step is to begin analysing what each responsibility entails individually.
No task is the same. This means that not only what you need to do is different, but it may involve different tools or team members to be finalised successfully. For example, as a marketing lead, you would work on ad campaigns with copywriters and with content writers for your email or blog. depending on each one, different skill sets work with different tools. For ad campaigns, you may use Facebook business manager or Google Adwords and for blog content, you would track your performance with an SEO tool like SEMrush.
You may also notice that you have task dependencies. What this means is that certain steps for project completion can only be done when a previous task is finalised. You won't be able to publish an ad campaign until the right visual is done right? Or at least, we don't advise you to.
Start structuring your tasks in a way where you can easily visualise the first steps to get the ball rolling. Then what has to be done next? And then what? Keep going until you get to your completed goal.
4) Prioritize the right tasks
Now that you have a better understanding of what lies ahead of you, it’s time to start prioritising the right tasks. The tricky part is that you need to have a good perception of the importance and urgency of each task and sub-task.
Urgent tasks are defined as those that need to be completed at a close deadline. Like for example, providing a report that was requested by clients at the end of the day. In this case, the urgency is high and you would have to let go of what you were currently working on to complete the report in time.
While important tasks don’t have to be urgent. You may have a crucial project that needs special attention but it might not be due in the next coming days. This means that you can plan each step with extra care and make sure you have enough time to provide it with enough attention.
According to research done in 2021, more than 80% of people don’t use a time management system. Meaning that they either rely solely on to-do lists or deal with tasks as they come.
Now, this is where prioritisation comes into play. If you have any urgent deadlines then it might be best to first prioritize these types of tasks and any dependencies they may have. Next, you need to consider your important projects which are typically more time-consuming. Find a way where you schedule these tasks in a manner where you don’t run the risk of doing it all last minute.
5) Set realistic deadlines for tasks
In most cases, deadlines will be given to you, either by superior or external stakeholders like clients, customers, investors and so forth. However, sometimes, and common on important projects, the deadline might not be specified.
When this is the case, although giving you more control, it can heavily influence your productivity. This is why you should make sure that the deadlines you set are realistic enough for you to achieve success.
A study by Teresa and Steven Kramer found that a good way to improve employee motivation is by giving them a sense of incremental progress. By creating deadlines for sub/tasks, tasks, and the overall project, you can keep yourself motivated as you hit all those deadlines on time.
If you have not yet heard about it, we humans suffer from a bias called the planning fallacy. What this entails is that we over-estimate our capabilities to get things done. Either we are overly confident in how fast we can complete tasks or we don’t give enough attention to the obstacles that might be found on the way.
For this reason, make sure to deeply think about how much time and resources you’ll need for the completion of these types of unspecified projects. It’s best to provide more time for completion than to keep yourself on a tight schedule.
You’ll also have to take into consideration any dependencies it may have. If you depend on a team member to initialize a task, then take into consideration that this individual may run the risk of being delayed.
6) Be as consistent as possible
Consistency is key for almost anything to be successful! Dieting, working out trying a new hobby and the same goes for organizing your workload better. After spending so much time creating an action plan, it would be a shame if you didn’t follow it from the get-go.
When your practices and procedures are consistent, your work environment will most likely seem less chaotic and confusing. As you find your comfort with your work schedule, you’ll seamlessly move from one completed task to another.
When there are constant changes in your schedule, you would have to take precious time from working on tasks to first understand where to even start. Especially the cases if there is a back and forth between projects. Keep track of progress so that you can find your bearing quicker.
Most importantly, if you start deviating from your plan, all those calculations and estimations are out the window. You will no longer keep track of what has and hasn’t been done, or the deadlines for each one of them. Bringing a whole new level of chaos into your work (and probably even personal) life.
7) Leave room for unexpected changes
The last but significant step you need to take when organizing and prioritizing your work is to leave space for the unexpected. Most times, we tend to forget that a lot of influencing factors are completely out of our control.
You can’t know when a colleague will get sick and how this can impact your completion rates. Maybe a client requests something extra for you to do or maybe they are the ones who are not getting back to you fast enough. These are all influencers that you can not predict unless you have some psychic powers we don’t know about.
However, the majority of us don’t, so our best bet is to make sure that we leave sufficient time to deal with these unexpected changes. A “buffer” between tasks, projects and their deadlines.
You also have to take into account all the other activities that come into play during your working hours. For example, meetings, daily standups, reading and responding to emails and taking time to stay up to date with team chats.
So you must leave space during your schedule to attend to these constant matters. It can take up to 23 minutes for an average person to refocus after an interruption. Like this, you can have a healthy balance in how you use your time.
You’ll have defined hours where you work on all necessary tasks and you can even let your team know. Then, you can have moments throughout the day where you deal with other issues or even help a team member out. By collaborating with others, both you and your team can push through roadblocks and obstacles faster.