Often, just looking at a to do list is overwhelming. Using time management strategies to prioritize your to do list can help. This month, I’ve offered tips about how to turn your to do’s into scheduled appointments and how to look at your whole life when you’re managing your time. Today, I’m offering you two methods to prioritize your to do list.
Use the ABC Method to Prioritize Your To Do’s
Rank your to do’s into ABC categories.
A Vital – Needs to happen today – This also should include tasks with a due date, anything that would have consequences if it weren’t done today, and items you need to prioritize for this particular day. This could include paying a bill, returning an important call, or even grocery shopping when you’re out of something that you need this day.
B – Important: Needs to happen soon, but not necessarily today. Whether you need to switch out seasonal clothes, sign up for a class before a deadline, items on the B list should include things that don’t have an immediate deadline. If they happen this week, or even this month, an item might be a B task. If it doesn’t get done this week, then next week, it might move into the A category.
C – Nice – Can be done any time, but would be good to happen sometime. This might include cleaning out a garage that’s been messy for ten years. You don’t want to live with it forever, but it doesn’t have to happen right now. This might also include that book you’ve been meaning to read or write. The problem with C level tasks is that if you don’t ever move them up to A or B status, they’re likely to remain as intentions and not actions.
Once you’ve categorized your to do list into ABC’s, put your A level priorities on today’s calendar. Figure out the date that you’d like to accomplish B ranked items and put them on the to do list for that day in your planner. Choose a month when you’d like to accomplish C level priorities and put those on your monthly to do list. If you’d like a copy of my planner pages, email me.
Use the Time Vs. Payoff Method
With this method, you rank items based on how long the task takes vs. the payoff you expect to get from completing the task. You can have any number of items on this list and rank them starting with 1 for greatest payoff for the least amount of time.
- Pay the electric bill
- Complete a report
- Return a phone call
- Make plane reservations
Any of the above items might be an ABC priority, using the first strategy depending on when the bill or report is due, who you’re calling to and what the call concerns, or whether your trip is next week or in two months. However, once you’ve got your A list for a particular day, you can use the time vs. payoff method to look at the blocks of time in your day and determine when you have time to complete a two minute task versus working on one that would take 45 minutes.
Ultimately, managing your time and your priorities not only adds structure to your day, but determines how successful you feel. When you prioritize your to do list, you minimize emergencies and can be more productive.
If you’d like help managing your time and creating space in your schedule, I offer time management coaching by phone or Skype. You can call me to find out more.