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How to Prioritize Tasks in the Workplace

January 27, 2020

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When you have multiple work tasks to complete each day, you may need to develop an effective system to manage them. Prioritizing is a way to determine what you should accomplish first based on importance. Understanding the best ways to prioritize your tasks can save you time in the workplace.

In this article, we discuss what prioritizing is, how to prioritize tasks and give examples of skills to help you prioritize effectively.

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What is prioritizing?

Prioritizing includes deciding what order tasks should be completed based on their importance. This strategy may help you organize your time more efficiently. This helps you learn how to complete important tasks first, meet deadlines and have more time to finish larger tasks. Prioritization skills can help you accomplish more work in less time.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

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How to prioritize tasks at work

Consider these steps when prioritizing tasks in the workplace:

1. Decide which tasks are the most important

First, decide which tasks on your to-do list are the most critical. You could determine this based on deadlines you have for the week, client expectations or coworker requests. For example, you may focus on a marketing report due at the end of the day before moving on to other tasks.

2. Put your tasks in a calendar

Once you decide which tasks are most important, schedule them into your calendar. Prioritizing your time can be easier when you see your list of tasks each day. You may find that you focus better on those daily tasks when you have a visual reminder of each one you need to complete. Completing them can also provide a feeling of accomplishment.

3. Set boundaries

Once you focus on your tasks for that day, you can further prioritize by setting specific times to focus on your work. You may have coworkers that call, email or walk over to your desk regularly to talk to you about nonurgent issues. It is appropriate to let them know you are focused on a project and will speak with them at a later time. You can ask them not to disturb you during the morning, but that you would be happy to talk in the afternoon.

Another method of prioritizing your time is setting your email away message to let people know which hours of the day you respond to emails. You might find that you focus better and accomplish more tasks when you set specific times to work without interruptions.

Read more: Time Management Skills: Definitions and Examples

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Tips for prioritizing in the workplace

Here are a few ways you can prioritize your duties in the workplace, which can make you a more productive employee:

  • Account for distractions: Having distractions throughout your day is normal, whether you have shifted focus to another task or are responding to a coworker. You might also need breaks during the day to relax and refocus. When you accept that distractions will happen, you might have an easier time including them in your schedule. You can even schedule your breaks, such as a 10-minute coffee break mid-morning and a 15-minute walk late afternoon.

  • Get help from technology: With advancements in technology, there are many productivity tools available that can help you prioritize and stay on task. Downloading an application on your computer to keep track of your time on a specific task allows you to see how efficiently you’re working. You could also use a timer to help you focus on tasks and plan breaks. For instance, you could set your timer for an hour of work and plan to go on a break for five minutes afterward.

  • Prioritize one task at a time: It may be tempting to multitask to accomplish more, but it is often better to focus on one task at a time. This strategy can ensure your full attention is on that assignment so you can efficiently complete it before moving on to the next item on your list. You could have a higher chance of turning in quality work when you are not distracted by other tasks.

  • Use a scheduling tool: Prioritize tasks by writing everything you have due in the upcoming month. From there, determine what needs to be done daily, by the end of each week and by the month’s end. You can write this down on a spreadsheet and then organize the tasks in a calendar. Scheduling your tasks based on deadlines can help you stay focused and work more efficiently.

  • Delegate tasks: If you can assign duties or share responsibilities with coworkers, you could make a list of everything you need to complete by the end of the week and delegate specific tasks to others. Decide which tasks others could finish without your supervision and assign them to your coworkers so you can focus on issues that need your immediate attention. This way you can prioritize the tasks that you need to finish quickly.

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How to highlight prioritization skills

Knowing how to prioritize your tasks can make you a more qualified job candidate. Here are several ways you can underline prioritization skills when applying to a new job:

Prioritization skills for your resume

A strong resume should list examples of prioritization skills you use at your current or previous employer. You can list several skills and explain how you use them. For example, you might say the following in your summary or objective on your resume:

“Lead marketing manager with three years of experience using prioritization skills to organize tasks by importance and set deadlines for the marketing department to ensure it completed all projects on time.”

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing

Prioritization skills for your cover letter

Your cover letter is an opportunity to talk about how you prioritize tasks in more detail. You can tailor it to the position you are applying for by reading the job posting thoroughly and mentioning specific keywords that show you know how to prioritize, like being punctual or well-organized. For example, you could talk about your prioritization skills in your cover letter in the following way:

“In my prior position as a receptionist, I was in charge of scheduling appointments for the human resources team each day. I would get a large number of phone calls and emails daily from prospective employees, so I prioritized my tasks by spending the morning returning their calls. I would complete my emails in the afternoon when it was not as busy since they were not as urgent.”

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