There never seem to be enough hours in a day to get everything important done. Work-life balance can seem more like a myth than an achievable goal. Don’t fall victim to this negative thought process because anything is possible with the right strategy. Here are our best practices to prioritize and manage an overwhelming workload.
How to Prioritize your Workflow
Checklists are the roadmap for your workflow
Creating a checklist helps your brain identify all the things you need to accomplish in one place so no task slips through the cracks! Create a flexible and manageable list by listing high priority to low priority items that can be accomplished on the day it is listed for (while also accounting for the occasional social media scroll or incidental work task). Start with a master checklist with everything you need to accomplish either weekly or monthly. Then, prioritize your workload by creating a daily to-do list from this list that will help channel your time effectively in accordance with deadlines. If tasks are left from the previous day, transition them to a higher priority for the next day. Follow the “do, defer, delegate, delete” method by doing tasks you must, deferring work that is not as high priority, delegating work to another qualified person, and deleting anything that is unproductive of your time.
Differentiate between important and urgent
Every task may seem important and urgent, but there is a key difference explained by the Eisenhower Matrix. This matrix differentiates something that is important, meaning it will have an impact on you achieving a goal, from something that is urgent, meaning it demands immediate action and usually impacts someone else achieving their goal. This simple thought process will become automatic as you recognize whether a task needs attention to make an impact or attention immediately. Knowing the difference complements your ability to do, defer, delegate, or delete so you can focus on tasks that actually need your attention.
Check off and add tasks as soon as they come
Making a list is only helpful if you stick to it, so refer back to the list you created at the start and end of every day. When checking tasks off of your list, the brain develops a “rewards” reaction like when your business makes a sale. You build momentum, also known as a workflow, with this motivation so getting it done is fun! It is important to be realistic when managing your time.
Stay on task
Finish a task before you move on to the next so that when you do move on you won’t have to go back and redo anything. When you set up your daily checklist, you estimate the time and effort required for that task, so try to stick to those parameters. If you hit a roadblock on a task, do not sit on it frustrated, but rather schedule a time to go back by shifting other tasks forward according to your agenda. Staying on task seems simple, but a variety of external factors affect how well you can focus so taking care of yourself outside of work is extremely important to your performance.
Channel the most difficult tasks during productive hours
Research suggests that you are only actually productive for about 3 hours of an 8-hour workday, so schedule accordingly. You probably already know your productive sweet spot, so never schedule meetings or lunch during those hours. When choosing daily tasks, this is important as you must schedule tasks that alternate between difficult and easy to complement your brain’s workload capacity. Saving tedious tasks for the less productive hours is also productive.
Break large tasks into subtasks
Going back to your brain’s happy dance at accomplishing goals, subtasks add to this trigger. Sometimes a task seems too daunting to want to tackle so you put it off, but microproductivity combats this work anxiety. Prioritize your workload so that you work on a project in increments, ensuring that it comes together efficiently while also avoiding neglect towards other work. Bit by bit, the larger task will seem simpler when parts of the whole appear so the task seems less overwhelming to tackle. You will be more willing to attack the task at hand rather than dreading it when you split up the work over a period of time.
Communicate to stakeholders and superiors about deadlines
The biggest frustration in the workplace is not meeting a deadline, so introspectively analyze whether a task can actually get done. It is alright to say no sometimes when your bandwidth is already stretched thin. It is equally important to update progress with your superiors that assigned a task to avoid a lack of consideration and ensure a larger project does not fail.
Start small and build up your endurance towards productivity as it will not change in one day. Remember, one productive day is not a reason to slack off on other days. Prioritize your workload by implementing any of these steps to help you develop the skills and thought processes to achieve better time management in the workplace.