It’s happened to all of us: Staring at our to-do list wondering which urgent tasks to take care of first, or getting to the end of the day only to realize you didn’t even complete the most high-priority tasks. How can you get better at priority management and how does it differ from other skills like time management and project management?
Let’s talk about priority management strategies in the workplace, and how you can use them to improve your self-management skills and keep your project team on track.
What Is Priority Management?
Priority management is the process of identifying the most important tasks and ensuring that they get done. It’s a type of resource allocation in which you classify tasks by their priority level and focus your time and energy on the most urgent tasks first.
Although you can practice priority management at the individual level, we’ll be focusing on how you can use it for team project management — that is, making sure that your team members are directing their efforts toward high-value tasks that contribute to company objectives and long-term goals.
Priority Management vs. Time Management vs. Project Management
Although there’s a lot of overlap between priority management and time management, they aren’t the same thing. Priority management is more about determining what to do, while time management is about setting the time aside to do it.
Time management strategies include things like the Pomodoro Technique, in which you work on tasks in 25-minute increments, followed by a five-minute break.
Priority management is guided by concepts like the Pareto Principle, which proposes that 20% of your efforts drive 80% of results.
Someone may be great at time management — scheduling tasks, meeting deadlines — but if they’re applying those skills to less urgent tasks and letting important ones slide, they may still fail to achieve their long-term goals.
Project managers need to be skilled at both time and priority management in order to successfully delegate tasks and follow up on them. Project management techniques include the Waterfall method and scrum and agile methodologies, and you can use project management software to assign and organize tasks.
Why Does Priority Management Matter?
Having a plan for priority management can help you improve productivity and business efficiency. You’ll spend less time on unimportant tasks, and more time on the things that really matter. Here are four specific areas in which priority management can help:
- Delegating tasks: When new tasks arrive in your inbox, it can interrupt your workflow. Although checking easy tasks off your to-do list can feel productive, know when to leave something for later or delegate it to someone else.
- Avoiding overwhelm: Having a backlog of important tasks can lead to feeling overwhelmed at work and mess with your work-life balance. Task prioritization allows you to distribute the workload more evenly and cull less urgent tasks.
- Achieving project success: Projects consist of dozens of small tasks that need to be completed before a given time. By taking the big picture into account, you’ll be able to focus on tasks that are integral to completing the project.
- Improving teamwork: Team members who know which project tasks they’re responsible for and how urgent they are less likely to drop the ball. When you use a task manager or action item tracker to organize tasks, it’s easy to see who’s keeping up and who could use a bit of help.
The bottom line is that priority management can help you streamline your day-to-day operations and provide a better way to work than other management solutions.
How to Implement Priority Management on Your Team
Still not sure how to go about implementing priority management? Here are five easy steps to follow to help you get your priorities straight.
1. Get Clear on Your Goals
Priority management is about being proactive and forward-thinking. Project managers need to have an understanding of their immediate goals, as well as how those project goals align with the organization’s overall objectives.
In some cases, this might mean prioritizing certain aspects of a project over others, or even determining that you have too many projects in progress concurrently, and you need to put some on the backburner to avoid overworking your team.
Start by writing reviewing documentation or meeting with senior leaders to establish your shared priorities. Then, write down your short- and long-term goals and review them often to make sure they’re still in alignment.
2. Communicate With Your Team
Next, meet with your team to determine how your day-to-day operations will further your company’s objectives. Who will be responsible for delegating tasks and establishing the priority level? How much discretion do individual team members have?
When team members are on the same page about your priorities, they can make better decisions about which tasks to focus on and which to save for later.
3. Use Standardized Criteria to Prioritize Tasks
Different team members may have a different way of determining what’s urgent. Some people prefer to get easy tasks out of the way first, while others start with the hardest task so it’s all smooth sailing from there.
While there’s room to accommodate different work routines, use a standardized system so that everyone uses the same criteria to prioritize tasks. One option is a prioritization matrix like the Eisenhower matrix, which categorizes tasks into four quadrants:
A prioritization matrix can help you make decisions about which tasks to prioritize. But for simplicity’s sake, you may want to stick with High, Medium, and Low Priority levels when you add them to your task management software.
4. Avoid Distractions and Stay Focused
A big part of priority management is being able to set aside tasks that aren’t urgent and focus on those that are. Once you’ve decided which tasks to prioritize, avoid working on those that aren’t time-sensitive, even if they seem easy or convenient.
Turn off notifications for unrelated projects, and let your coworkers know what you plan to work on today for added accountability. You can also use other tools to stay focused at work, such as website blockers or noise-canceling headphones.
Keep your task list organized using project management tools so that far-off tasks take up less mental real estate, and use an automated note-taking tool for meetings so you can add action items to your to-do list automatically.
5. Use the Right Task Management Tools
Once everyone understands your priorities and you have a system for categorizing new tasks, you can streamline the process with a task manager or action item tracker.
When you use remote collaboration tools for task management, everyone on your team has visibility into shared project tasks. You can comment on tasks, re-assign tasks, and even get notifications when you have a new task or a deadline is approaching.
Plus, when you use an AI note-taking tool like Anchor AI, you can add and assign tasks automatically by capturing action items from your meeting notes.
Prioritize Tasks Automatically With Anchor AI
Effective priority management involves identifying tasks, assessing their urgency and importance, and following through to make sure they’re completed. You’ll also need to use time management skills to stay focused on high-value tasks, and know when to eliminate or delegate tasks that don’t align with your priorities.
Anchor AI helps you stay focused on the task at hand by taking meeting notes for you and automatically identifying action items. Our AI-powered software can even set an assignee and a due date based on what was said in the meeting.
Plus, you can use it to transcribe your meeting, generate meeting minutes, write a meeting summary, and more. Sign up today to try Anchor AI yourself!