How to prioritize tasks

Whatever your line of work is, trying to balance and prioritize tasks is a dilemma that’s part of almost everyone’s routine.

Managing tasks and properly preparing for work is naturally a big challenge. It can become less challenging, however, if you use technology in your favor and adopt a process/task management app.

Technology is around us all the time now, and turning away from helpful software can be rather counterproductive. Modern management apps can make your day much easier and help you prioritize tasks.

If you’re having trouble trying to figure out how to prioritize tasks, you should probably consider a popular solution such as Kanban.

How to prioritize tasks?

Prioritizing tasks can be rather challenging, especially when everything seems important enough to be number 1 on your list. Don’t worry about it, though, here are 5 easy steps to follow when prioritizing your tasks:

  1. List your tasks: Make a list with everything you need to do (today, this week…the time frame depends on your planning). When creating this list don’t worry about ordering or prioritizing them (yet);
  2. Anything urgent? Scan your list to see if there are any tasks that demand immediate attention. These are the tasks that you can’t possibly leave for “when you have time” because not doing them can have serious negative consequences. Urgent tasks must not only be a priority, they must be done ASAP;
  3. Qualify your tasks: This depends highly on the focus of your organization. If your team prioritize customers before internal work, order your tasks according to that. Another easy way to qualify and prioritize is the number of people impacted by it. The more people, the higher the priority;
  4. Estimate effort: Some tasks will take you minutes to do, others hours or even days. Estimate how long will it take to do each of your tasks and focus on doing the ones that’ll take longer first. Even though checking small tasks off your list every once in a while can be motivating, productivity experts suggest starting with the longer tasks;
  5. What (and when) to cut: It’s very likely that you don’t have enough time to get to everything on your list. That’s ok, you’re human. What you must do, however, is cut the remaining tasks off your list after you’ve prioritized and estimated effort. Cross out everything else (or put it back in your task backlog so you can get back to it when you can) and focus on what matters.

What you must never forget, though, is that things change all the time and you may need to change the order of your tasks if an urgent task comes along. And that’s fine. Be flexible and adaptable so you can react quickly every time something changes.

Here at Pipefy we adopt the following prioritizing criteria:

  • Critical: Urgent, time-sensitive tasks. The team is expected to stop doing everything else to attend to it. Critical tasks represent some sort of risk and can cost the business;
  • High priority: These tasks are very important and must be done as soon as the team can. They come second in the priority scale, only after critical tasks (because they’re not time sensitive);
  • Neutral: Neutral tasks are important but can wait to be done when there aren’t any critical or high priority issues;
  • Low priority: These tasks fall in the “good to have but can wait” category. Low priority tasks are the ones your team will take care of when they have the time;
  • Unknown: Tasks with unknown priority haven’t been properly qualified/estimated. These are the ones the team doesn’t know if they’ll do it someday but, when they have the time, they’ll get to prioritizing it.

Pipefy offers a free team task management template that can greatly help prioritize yours and your team’s tasks. It comes with pre-determined color-coded labels that help you visually identify which tasks are critical or high priority.

You can also filter your team’s task management pipe to only see critical/high priority tasks and make sure your team will get to them ASAP.

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Written by Alessio Alionço, Tech Entrepreneur | 5+ Years Product Management | Founder & CEO of Pipefy, founder of Acessozero (acquired) | An addicted on technology, books and sports.