Prioritization is a key trait of successful people, and for good reason – those who prioritize are in control of their work responsibilities and tend to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time. In order to effectively prioritize your day, you must learn to recognize the difference between the important, the urgent, and the completely unnecessary. Although there are times when it may seem like everything is urgent, this is not necessarily so. With good planning and an emphasis on prioritization, urgent situations will become less frequent and, with time, you may even find yourself feeling more in control.
Decide on What Needs to Be Done
The first step towards prioritizing your day – the list - should actually be created the night before. These “action items” will come from your master list, along with new tasks generated throughout the day. These new tasks are generally the result of phone calls, meetings, new assignments, and mail, and should be added to your to-do list as they are generated. Most time management experts recommend taking fifteen minutes at the end of the day to prepare a to-do list for the next day – this way the tasks will be fresh on your mind and easier to remember.
Leave Administrative Duties for Someone Else
Although administrative duties are important, they're typically not supportive to the overall function of your position or role. Tasks such as filing documents, returning phone calls, and attending required (but unproductive) meetings all fall into ‘administrative' work, and should be assigned to an administrative assistant, if possible. If your budget allows, you can outsource administrative duties or hire an administrative assistant to work with you in your office space. If you utilize the services of a virtual office, many packages include access to an administrative assistant.
Keep Passwords & Templates Handy
Forgetting a password and having to search for it can easily turn a productive workday into a wild goose chase. Studies show that the average worker gets distracted from a new project after only 11 seconds and some spend up to 25 minutes trying to get back on track. In order to avoid the distraction of searching for forgotten passwords and missing templates, keep sets of references readily available in desktop shortcuts or e-mail folders – that way you'll have what you need right at your fingertips. If you collaborate with a team, consider creating a shared folder or Google Doc that everyone can view.
Keep To-Do Lists Manageable
While to-do lists are a great way to keep things on track, they're useless if they're overloaded with tasks – after all, it is a daily to-do list and you should be able to complete nearly all tasks in one day. Although there is no magic number in regards to how many tasks a to-do list should contain, many experts agree that limiting the tasks to eight is a good idea. If you accomplish five or six items on your to-do list each day, you can still consider it a productive day. Remember to always look at the big picture: five or six completed tasks a day adds up to 25-30 completed tasks each week– talk about being productive!