Why Prioritization is Essential for Productivity and 4 Ways You can Prioritize Better

By Chelsea Babin

Everyone wants to be more productive because they know it means career success, working smarter and not harder, and having a better work-life balance. Yes, if you’re productive enough, you really can have it all! However, a lot of people don’t realize the importance of prioritization and the role it plays in making or breaking your productivity.

When it comes to productivity, two elements are king: energy and prioritization. Improving your energy levels will improve your productivity because you can last longer, work longer, stay focused, etc. But prioritization? It’s basically the whole productivity ball game. If you don’t prioritize effectively, you’ll waste so much of your valuable time, energy, and attention on tasks that aren’t super important or that drain you too much or that aren’t as urgent as others. Essentially, if you don’t prioritize effectively, you’ll never be as productive as you want to be.

Now that you understand the role of prioritization in productivity, you can use these 4 methods for prioritizing better on the job.

1. Weigh Urgency Versus Importance: There are tasks that need to be done today because their deadline is today. There are tasks that need to be done today because they’re incredibly important to the projects you’re working on or your success at the company. So, which comes first, the urgent or the important? Realistically, there is overlap between the two. The best thing you can do is make a list of everything you need to get done. Then, on a scale from 0 to 10, rank each task’s urgency. After that, on a scale from 0 to 10, rank each task’s importance. Add the scores together and rank your tasks that way! Then get to work on the task with the highest score and keep moving down the list.

2. Order Tasks By Effort Estimations: If you have several urgent and important tasks that need your focus, it may be best to put them in order of most effort required to least effort required. This method—sometimes referred to as eating the frog thanks to Mark Twain—will get your hardest, most important task out of the way first thing in the morning and allow your workday to be a kind of downward slope of effort. However, if you find that you’re not a morning person and are more productive when you get something accomplished early on, do the opposite. Order your urgent and important tasks by least effort required to most effort required, then execute.

3. Be Realistic: Setting expectations for yourself that are so lofty they’re basically impossible is setting yourself up for failure. So why do you do the same thing when you’re prioritizing what you need to get done in a day? You need to be a realistic about how much work you can actually do each day. If not, you’ll power through breaks and reach a breaking point because you’re not able to finish everything you set out to do and told your boss or coworkers you were going to do. Part of prioritizing is realizing what you can’t achieve in a day as much as what you can achieve in a day.

4. Don’t Fall Prey to Sunk Cost Fallacy: There’s a psychological effect where we, as humans, feel compelled to continue doing something just because we’ve already put time and effort into it. This fallacy can stop your prioritization and productivity in its tracks. No matter what you spend your time doing now, you’ll never get the time you spent on a now irrelevant task back. The best thing you can do is move on and stop working towards the wrong priority, refocusing and reprioritizing so you can stay productive and get important tasks accomplished.

If productivity is the key to career success, then prioritization is its key blade. You can’t open the lock without it! Unlock your career potential and use these 4 methods for prioritizing more effectively to improve your productivity and performance at work.