In today’s working world, the pressure to be productive is high. When work (and life) become overwhelming, it can seem impossible to accomplish anything. Even the smallest of tasks can seem daunting, especially when your to-do list keeps getting longer. For many of us, ad-hoc work can sometimes take up most of the time, pushing more strategic tasks to the side. Tasks often become prioritized based on the needs of others or the immediacy of the task. So, how do we prioritize tasks at work and determine what’s essential when feeling bogged down?
Here we present four strategies for prioritizing tasks at work, even when it seems impossible. Implementing these four strategies can help change how you feel about your work day and make the most of your time in or out of the office.
Conduct an audit to identify what you have to accomplish
Though it might sound simple (and obvious), conducting an audit is a great way to visualize what tasks you have to accomplish. This is a good place to start when trying to determine how to prioritize your work tasks. Understanding the full scope of what you need to complete can help you prioritize what you should tackle first. Seeing everything laid out also helps you contextualize what you really have to do. Just thinking about all of your work tends to create this feeling of being overwhelmed. Depending on your preferences, an audit could look like a to-do list, a task list in your calendar, a visual brainstorm bubble, or anything to help you see what it is you have to do.
Determine what is important on the list
After creating that overwhelming to-do list, highlight what’s important. Reflect on what you are actually working towards. A promotion? A new process? By understanding these more strategic and long-term goals, you can prioritize items crucial to achieving these future outcomes. Determine deadlines for each task, whether self-appointed or determined by a colleague. Then order them from most to least urgent.
At Jarvis, we love using Notion to track tasks, projects, and progress. It enables us to set priorities, for example, high, medium, and low, and is a great way to visualize what tasks are in progress or upcoming. Our priorities are also shared with our managers and team so that anyone involved can get updates on progress. This is also an excellent way for management to understand the capacity of their employees.
Don’t be afraid to say no (or not right now)
Saying no, especially when it comes to work, is challenging for many of us. We want to be of assistance to others or prove that we have the ability to take on more responsibility. However, when you’re already overwhelmed by what’s on your to-do list, taking on an additional task is likely to only make things worse. When a colleague or manager asks if you can take on another task or project, let them know that you don’t have the capacity to do it right away. Set expectations, give them a timeline, and then add them to your list of priorities. Speaking to your manager about your projects, both short and long-term, is helpful in further understanding what you can prioritize. At Jarvis, every manager has weekly (sometimes twice a week) 1-1 meetings with their team members to ensure they feel supported and are on track to achieve their goals. The success of each team member leads to the success of the whole organization, so working together is key. This step is key to prioritize tasks at work and stay in control of your to-do list.
Remove distractions but take breaks
If you work from home, there can be many distractions surrounding your workspace (hello kids and pets!). Unfortunately, avoiding distractions entirely is nearly impossible. At the office, there are conversations with co-workers, random questions, and even lunch breaks that could distract you from what you need to do. However, there are ways to manage unavoidable distractions. Remember that breaks are important. Scheduling these throughout your workday is necessary for productivity and helpful when feeling overwhelmed. Putting blocks in your calendar when you need quiet time to complete a task is a great way to let your colleagues know that you want to stay focused for a period of time.
No matter how well you prioritize, there is only so much you can accomplish in one day. Ad-hoc requests, inevitable distractions, and urgent meetings can strain the plan you’re prepared to complete everything you need to do. It’s essential to be realistic when it comes to prioritizing tasks at work. Yes, there are days when you will feel overwhelmed but by actively working towards a prioritization strategy, you will get closer to completing tasks on your ever-growing to-do list.
Relying on a team is crucial to individual success and business success. At Jarvis, we emphasize the importance of collaboration, teamwork, and problem-solving in our day-to-day work. The goal is to work towards true progress and improvement continuously!
PEOPLE OPERATIONS MANAGER
As the People Operations Manager, Sarah is responsible for the entire employee lifecycle - from hiring great talent to onboarding to supporting folks throughout their Jarvis journey.
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Jarvis is a leading IT consulting firm headquartered in Canada that provides total talent solutions with ongoing partnerships across North America’s top financial institutions, cutting-edge startups, and major technology companies.
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