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How to Effectively Prioritise Tasks

We take participants through a prioritisation toolkit to help them do this well - in a structured, rapid way.
A notebook with a pen and pencap resting on top. Written on the open page are the words "start today" in pink.

By Chally Kacelnik

One of the most consistent pieces of feedback that we receive from participants in our leadership programs is that during the program they learned how to prioritise tasks much more effectively. Here’s some of what they learn.

We take participants through a prioritisation toolkit to help them do this well. In a structured, rapid way, we ask participants to consider their list of tasks against considerations of factors such as urgency, importance, links to current operational planning, type of work, level of complexity, and whether the task is within the work of the individual’s role.

Sometimes, however, a simple approach to prioritising tasks into categories is all that’s needed. We call this the ABCD approach:

  • A: urgent or must
  • B: should try and complete in the time available, but not at the expense of A items
  • C: it would be valuable to complete these items after A and B items have been tackled
  • D: not worth doing

But what’s the next stop if it is more complex? Once the nature of the work has been thought through, there are several options for ranking or mapping tasks. One of the most effective visual means is mapping the tasks on an effort versus return matrix, with options for low, medium, high, and huge effort and return.

It’s one thing to make a to do list, but it’s another thing to be able to tick off the items. We ask participants to reflect on whether each task is:

  • Planned and scheduled
  • Resourced adequately
  • Monitored or will be monitored
  • Reviewed or will be reviewed
  • Being done by the right people at the right level

Sometimes, the task that’s been stressfully visible over the horizon turns out to be a task that shouldn’t be done by the person in question, or shouldn’t be done at all. An evidence basis cuts through the feeling of being overwhelmed and connects the work back to its purpose. In any case, it’s useful to have a calm and methodical approach to prioritising tasks to which you can return again and again. It’ll help you to get the right job done in the right way at the right time.

At LKS Quaero, we help clients effectively organise and execute work. If you’d like to know more, visit us at lksquaero.com or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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