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Methods to Organize and Prioritize

This lesson is a part of an audio course Organize and Prioritize Your Life by Austin Churchill

In our previous lesson, you learned that prioritizing work is more than simply creating a list of tasks. Prioritizing work helps you to find the true value in each task on your plate. Now, let's talk about some methods on how to best organize & prioritize. These are not the only ways to organize or prioritize work, find a strategy that works for you and commit to it.

When it comes to organization, there is much more than just getting your work into one central system. There are several habits that must form to make this process repeatable and sustainable. The following are tips for how to ensure you are set up for organized success:

  • Plan time for entering new tasks into your system: We are all busy throughout the day and often do not have time to enter tasks into our system as we receive them. So make time at the start or end of your day to enter in tasks that you may have written down on a notepad or a sticky note into your system.

  • Create a labeling structure: Identify a way to group your tasks into related buckets. This will help you identify what each task is working towards. These buckets could be your goals that you identified earlier or projects you are working on. Create labels that work for you and help you align like tasks.

  • Plan time for prioritizing tasks in your system: If we are going to plan for entering new tasks, we definitely need to plan for time to prioritize our tasks. Whether or not you do this at the same time as when you enter new tasks in, it needs to be scheduled on an ongoing basis.

Prioritization is all about digging into your tasks so you can find their true value. Without a task's true value, you can't properly prioritize. There are many ways to prioritize your work, and you should apply the one that best serves your personal situation. In this lesson, I will go over a simple prioritization methodology to get you started. In the prior lesson on prioritization, you learned that you need to identify four core attributes for each task: alignment with goals, value, importance, and urgency. The goals and values are highly dependent on your particular situation. To identify these, you need to understand what you are working towards and the value that that goal will bring. Importance and urgency also depend on your particular situation but can also be applied to a popular prioritization methodology called "The Eisenhower Matrix."

This methodology divides tasks into four quadrants (abbreviated Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4).

  • Q1 is important and urgent. This work is your "Do First" work. These tasks are immediately your top priority in life or at work. All work should be dropped to work on these tasks. A life Q1 example would be if your kitchen was on fire because if you don't attend to it immediately, your house will burn down.

  • Q2 is important but not urgent. Since Q2 tasks are not urgent, they don't need to be worked on immediately, but since they are important, you should schedule them for the near future. If you do not have any Q1 tasks, your top Q2 tasks should be worked on. A life Q2 example would be exercising since you know it is good for you, but you can only go at a certain time during the day or week.

  • Q3 is urgent but not important. These tasks are urgent and should be worked on right away, just like your Q1 tasks. But the difference is that these tasks are not important. This means that they can be delegated to someone else. Maybe there is someone better for the tasks, or it brings more value for someone else to take it on. A life Q3 example would be yard work since it is important, but you can also hire someone to do it on a regular basis.

  • Q4 is not important and not urgent. These are classified as your don't do tasks. We all have tasks that are in this quadrant. We do them, but they are neither urgent nor important. It is critical that we identify these tasks and eliminate them. A life Q4 example would be scrolling through social media. Doing so is okay to do from time to time, but if it puts the more important and more urgent tasks at risk, then they should be eliminated.

Your Task: Use the methodologies and tips in this lesson to organize and prioritize your system of tasks. Did this process uncover unknown details about your tasks? Is the order of your list different than before this exercise? What quadrant are you working in for most of your time?

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Written by

Austin Churchill