Prioritizing the Priorities
We constantly have competing priorities in the workplace. It can be difficult to have so many things to do that you end up having to prioritize the priorities, which results in having to-do lists within your original to-do list. However, juggling priorities is a regular part of working, despite what a challenge it can be.
Your to-do list itself can be overwhelming. Oftentimes once we begin to get through the items on our list, we can become even more overwhelmed. In her article, Kat Boogaard sheds some light on why this is: the planning fallacy.
“Put simply, we’re pretty bad at understanding how long things take us. We all fancy ourselves productivity superheroes and thus grossly underestimate just how long a project will take us to complete.”
I bet after reading that you can think of many examples of when this has happened to you. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot we can do about having a lengthy to-do list at work. Most people will say they’re stretched thin as it is, even with the assistance of coworker and supervisors. So what are we to do?
- Gotta do, and gotta do now: Learn to prioritize the priorities. For example, if you’re working on something that was already deemed a priority, but your supervisor instructs you to switch to another more pressing (or time sensitive) priority, listen to them. After all, they’re your supervisor for a reason and you should be doing what they ask anyways. If you’re concerned about the priority you were already working on, it doesn’t hurt to clarify with them which should be worked on first (in a professional and respectful manner, of course). Additionally, take note of what priorities absolutely need to be done by the end of the day, and high-light them on your to-do list. This is a clear way to physically visualize the most important priorities.
- Delegate (if it’s possible): If you have a direct report, this one is pretty easy. If you work on a team, talk to the rest of the members and see what can be delegated throughout the group. If you work more independently, resort back to the first bullet and prioritize the priorities again.
- Remember for the future: Before you take on too much again, remember these lessons going forward! We’ve all over-promised when we didn’t have the time or space to do so, so try to be more realistic when coworkers, supervisors, and even clients ask something of you. Always get it done, but set it on a realistic timeline.