Prioritizing Tasks: a How-To Guide for Business Operators

Prioritizing tasks is an important skill in the workplace. Employers look for candidates who demonstrate the ability to prioritize tasks because it’s indicative that they can self-manage their workload. For this reason, it’s important both managers and candidates be able to demonstrate task prioritization. 


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An introduction to task prioritization for managers

Many jobs require employees to multitask, which makes prioritization a key skill in business, and especially useful for managers. 


As a manager in any workplace, you can expect requests and tasks to come from your email inbox, project management software, CMS, verbally from your employees and through other corporate communication channels. When you have multiple requests coming from different places, it’s important that you know how to organize and implement each task so you can best support your team. 


Prioritizing enables you to look at all of the requests and tasks you need to do for the day and throughout the week, then make a plan to finish everything you need to do.


Managing the task prioritization of employees

Managers are also tasked with ensuring employees can effectively prioritize their tasks.


If you work in almost any job, in almost any field, it’s likely you’ve been involved in a situation where multitasking was expected and you needed to make a decision about how to proceed with tasks for yourself or an employee. Well-executed task prioritization makes employees more efficient at their jobs, making it a desirable skill for candidates to possess and for managers to develop. 


Managers seeking top talent may be more inclined to consider candidates who can demonstrate effective multitasking from the earliest parts of the interview process. Because an employee’s ability to prioritize can directly impact how they do their job, it’s important that managers help them develop prioritizing skills so employees can be the best, most effective they can be. To do this, managers are tasked with creating a company culture where prioritization is valued, which starts with hiring the right people and putting the right training programs in place.


Related: How to Hire Employees: A Step-by-Step Guide


How to prioritize tasks in 6 steps

Task prioritization is a skill that saves time, money and resources for companies. For this reason, having strong prioritization skills is essential for many roles spanning across industries. Further, task prioritizing is something that can be easily developed by following the right steps. If you’d like to be a more effective and efficient leader, you can develop your task prioritization skills by practicing these six steps:


  1. Get all the ideas out: The first step in prioritizing is understanding what exactly you need to do. You can do this by making a list of all of the tasks you need to finish for the day or week. Once you’ve laid out all tasks, you can begin the process of organizing them.  

  3. Determine which are most important: With all of your ideas laid out in front of you, determine which are most important and which should be completed first. You can make considerations like which tasks affect other people within the organization, which ones affect only you and which tasks have to be completed more quickly. By considering all the information about each task, you can determine their importance.

  5. Decide if any delegation can occur: If any task can be shifted to another employee who has the skills and time to work on it, decide which tasks meet that criteria and assign them.

  7. Create deadlines for each task: Create deadlines for each task that you have left to accomplish.

  9. Organize: With deadlines and importance determined, you can organize your tasks based on which ones you need to start first.

  11. Set aside time to review: Make time to review your prioritized tasks throughout the day to make sure nothing has shifted. 

Related: How to Create a Performance Improvement Plan


FAQs about prioritizing tasks for employees

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about prioritizing tasks:


What task prioritization factors are important to consider when setting up a workday?

Below are some questions you can ask yourself to help you prioritize your tasks:


  • How many employees are affected by this task?
  • What is the financial value of this activity?
  • How does this task fit within my goals for this position?
  • When will I have the time in my day to complete this activity?
  • Is it time-sensitive?
  • Can this particular activity be delegated?


What technology is available to help with task management?

There are many project management software products that help with task management. Other office products like CMS databases also include task management, and even some communication platform software allows users to collaborate on tasks. There are a number of paid and free resources for task management that candidates can choose from.


What are the interview questions that managers can ask to learn about a candidate’s task prioritization skills?

Here are some sample interview questions about task prioritization that you can ask to ensure you are hiring the best candidates to fill positions in your department:


  • Explain how to delegate a task to a new team member. 
  • Are you familiar with any productivity software?
  • Talk about a time you missed a deadline. What happened and how could you have fixed the problem?
  • How do you organize emails and other digital communication?
  • How much time do you spend per week on data entry?
  • How do you prioritize duties between tasks assigned by different managers?
  • When managing a lot of different tasks, how do you organize your workday?
  • How do you decide how much time each task deserves?
  • Are you familiar with project management tools?
  • Are you familiar with project management strategies?
  • What are the best ways to organize your tasks?
  • What proven strategies do you use to ensure you stay focused on your day, even when it’s highly task-oriented?
  • What personal organization tools do you use to stay on task?
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