How to Set Your Organize Priorities?
There are specific skills and steps that you can learn to effectively manage multiple priorities and to actually assess which activities you need to work on first then next in order to tame your daily and weekly schedule. I’ve tried to organize the best time management advice I can find into one place and make it “research administrator-friendly.”
The ability to prioritize is highly important in terms of achieving your goal. It helps you to identify and focus only on the essential tasks. It frees you from falling into procrastination or getting distracted by less important tasks. By harnessing this skill, you will be less stressed and a lot more organized and put-together.
To become proficient in prioritizing, you can start by applying former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle.
Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle
In 1954, he mentioned that there are “two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” In this sense, these two concepts can be defined as follows:
Important tasks are those whose results lead to the achievement of our personal or professional goals.
Urgent tasks require your immediate attention. However, they are typically related to the goal of someone else (such as your boss). Nevertheless, we focus on them more because there are negative consequences to not doing them right away.
At this point, you may want to reflect on three things.
First, identify which tasks or activities are most important to you. Are they in line with your goal? How far along are you in terms of accomplishing it?
Second, look back on how you spend your time each day. Do you focus on what is urgent? Were you able to find time for what is important?
Finally, consider how you can make time for what is important and still be able to do what is urgent. Alternatively, think about whether you can sacrifice what is urgent for what is important.
One strategy that can help you focus on the important tasks first is to do them at the start of your day. The reason why this is effective is that you would still make time for what is urgent later on in the day. After all, you will always find a way to do what is urgent to avoid the consequence.
Make sure to write down all your thoughts until you can flesh out a concrete plan out of them.
The Pareto Principle
It is easy to prioritize when you are in control of your time and resources. However, things take a more challenging turn when you are faced with many issues that will force you to make quick decisions.
If ever you find yourself in this situation, then you can take a page out of Italian economist Wilfredo Pareto. According to him, eighty percent of the effects of most events come from twenty percent of the causes. To make his point clear, he explained two examples.
The first one is that 80 percent of the properties in his homeland are owned by only 20 percent of the population. The second, on which his principle is initially based, is that 20 percent of the pea-pods in his garden held 80 percent of the peas produce.
To this day, the Pareto Principle is being used by many professionals to gauge almost anything, such as by stating that 80 percent of a corporation’s sales come from only 20 percent of its products.
Going back to the concept of Prioritization, you can apply the Pareto Principle by applying the following steps:
- Identify the main problems.
Take note of every issue that is holding you back from achieving your goal or task. If you are working as a team, consult each member to get their own insights. You might also need to consult your progress chart.
- Determine the main cause of each problem.
According to the concept of Root Cause Analysis, there are three common root causes behind any problem. These are Physical Causes, Human Causes, and Organizational Causes.
When something breaks down or fails to operate due to some tangible or observable aspect, then it is due to a Physical Cause. One example is you being unable to finish a three-page report due tomorrow because your laptop computer crashed.
If a person failed to do something, or did something wrong, then the problem is from a Human Cause. An example would be your co-worker failing to send you an email of the survey results for your report tomorrow.
In situations where, despite the effectiveness of tools and the efficient skills of the people involved, the process itself caused the problem, then it is considered to be due to an Organizational Cause. One example is the pyramid scheme, in that the products are effective and the salespeople are passionate and trained. Yet, the system itself fails to be sustainable.
Based on this perspective, it is easy to identify the root cause of some problems. However, if you find it a challenge to do so, then you should ask yourself these questions to help you deduce the issue until you can identify the root cause.
How did it happen?
Why did it happen?
Will it happen again?
Why or why not?
- Rearrange the problems in order of priority.
After you have identified the root cause for each problem, you should then create another list of the same problems. Only this time, you will be enumerating them based on how important it is for them to be solved. This way, you will instantly know which one to focus on solving first before you move on to the second, third, and so on.
- Come up with the solutions.
Now that you have analyzed and organized all the problems, the final step is to solve each of them. Start with the most important problem to be solved, and then brainstorm on the best steps to take to address it.
Now that you know how to apply Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle and Pareto’s Principle, you can choose from a variety of time management tools in organizing all this information. A simple chart on a spreadsheet should do the trick, and it can look something like this:
Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle
Today’s List of Tasks
Important Tasks Urgent Tasks
Task 1 – 8:00 am to 9:30 am Task 1 – 11:00 am to 12:00 am
Task 2 – 10:00 am to 10:30 am Task 2 – 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Ranking Problem Root Cause Solution:
1 Problem A Root Cause A Solution A
2 Problem B Root Cause B Solution B
3 Problem C Root Cause C Solution C
By using these tools, you will surely be able to get more tasks done throughout your day. Of course, this does not mean that these tools alone will enable you to focus on getting the job done. There will be times when we fail to focus on a task because of unexpected occurrences and distractions. However, you can overcome these challenges by improving your ability to concentrate. The next chapter can provide you with tips and strategies on how to do just that.