Collect a list of all your tasks. Pull together everything you need to get done. I prefer to keep my to-do list in my planner and make a new list every week or so. Don’t worry about the order, or the number of items.
Identify urgent vs. important. Do you have any tasks that need immediate attention? I create a daily ‘gotta get it done’ list on scrap paper each morning. Tatyana calls this work that if not completed by the end of the day or in the next several hours, will have serious negative consequences (missed client deadline; missed publication or release deadlines, etc.). Check to see if there are any high-priority dependencies also.
Assess value. Identify what carries the highest value to your business and organization. This is not the same as the things that are fun or engaging to you. Another way to assess value is to look at how many people are impacted by your work. In general, the more people involved or impacted, the higher the stakes.
Order tasks by estimated effort. Productivity experts suggest the tactic of starting the lengthier task first. But, if you feel like you can’t focus on your meatier projects before you finish up the shorter task, then go with your gut and do that. It can be motivating to check a small task off the list before diving into deeper waters. Always remember that the estimated effort is a number that you made up – so it could go longer or shorter.
Be flexible and adaptable. Know that your priorities will change. Do not be distracted by new, shiny work. If it’s the best use of your time, stay focused on the tasks you’re committed to completing.
I like this list and I’ll add one more thing – remember that email is not a task, it’s a process. It has no beginning or end. It’s easy to spend too much time cleaning up your Inbox. Experts stress that it’s important to timebox checking your email, for example three times a day for 15 minutes – 9 AM, noon, 4 PM. Create a process to touch each email once, whether it’s saving it as a reminder or replying quickly. Email tricks us into neglecting important work and relationships. Manage it, don’t let it manage you. And the next time someone makes you feel guilty by asking “it’s in your email, didn’t you see it?” explain the times you look at your email. Grow your EQ a bit by noticing how much it helps your velocity and anxiety to not have your email in your face every minute. Practice this … ‘No’ … or if that’s too hard, ‘not today’.
Here’s a template to help you move from ‘hope-to’ to projects that get done.