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In this busy, fast-paced world it’s not about getting everything done in a day -- it’s about structuring your day to accomplish what is most important. Not every task is weighted with the same value. Prioritization is about learning which tasks are more important, and handling them in order. Improving your prioritization skills not only increases your time management ability, it also reduces stress.
When you are self-aware, you take responsibility for what you know and don’t know. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses is the first step to learning how to prioritize. As a manager, you might realize that you are taking on too much work and not delegating enough to others. If so, determine which tasks you should focus on by prioritizing them in order of importance. Next, ask for feedback from your employees to find out who where you can delegate work. As an employee, you might be trying to hide a lack of understanding about how a new process works. In this case, ask for a one-on-one training session. This will position you to tackle what is important instead of compensating for a weakness.
Know Your ABCs
While prioritization typically begins with a to-do list, not everything on that list is urgent. Set one to three goals each day. Place the letter “A” by the tasks most important to achieving those goals. Place the letter “B” next to essential tasks, but ones that could be delayed. Then place a “C” by tasks that are non-essential to the day’s goals. If new tasks come your way, consider if they are an A, B or C. Most likely, the new task will go on the "C" list for the day. Focus each day on working off your “A's.”
As you become aware of what you can and can’t do in a day, accept what you can do with the resources you have. For example, if you have three days to complete a project, use the time you have to do the best you can in three days without expecting the project to be as polished as you would prefer. Perfectionism only leads to workplace stress. If you need more time or money to complete a project at a higher level, then negotiate with your team leader or boss.
It sounds obvious to work first and take a break second, but consider how many times a day you check your personal email, phone texts and Facebook page. Unless these activities are vital to your productivity, consider them as personal break time. Put them off until later and focus on the job at hand. When you take breaks, let yourself unwind and refocus by taking a 10-minute walk even if it’s just around the block or up and down a flight of stairs several times.
Charli Mills has covered the natural food industry since 2001 as a marketing communications manager for a highly successful retail cooperative. She built teams, brands and strategies. She is a writer and editor of "This is Living Naturally," a consultant for Carrot Ranch Communications and a Master Cooperative Communicator.