Recently, while I was cleaning out my Read Later… folder, I came across a 99u article on prioritizing your tasks. I felt it was worth sharing and I figured, if I wrote it down, I would better remember it myself.

Why You Need a Daily Prioritization Meeting

by Scott McDowell

The process for figuring out what is important is really just a simple series of questions:

  1. Do I really have to do this now?
  2. If so, is it “The Most Important Thing?”
  3. If not, where does it fit relative to the other tasks?
  4. Is someone waiting on me for this?
  5. If so, when do they need it?
  6. Does working/not working on this now have long-term consequences that I’m missing?

It’s one thing to lay out our tasks in front of us from time to time and see the big picture. Sometimes we get lost in our tasks, effectively missing the forest through the trees. But still, it’s more important to weigh those tasks against each other and our overall goals for the day/week/month/etc.

I find #1 to be funny out of context. It’s exactly what I ask all the time. I am a procrastinator above all else. “Do I really have to do this now?” is like my war cry. But placed at the top of this list of six, it becomes a much more serious and useful question.

Obviously #4 is of huge importance when clients are waiting for you to complete your task list. But #6 is the game changer for me. I pride myself in making smart decisions. I always try to weigh the possible outcomes and foresee as many hurdles as I can. Still, when it comes to a task list, I’ve historically let emotion and stress dictate my decisions.

Asking the question, “Are there long-term consequences that I’m missing?” is absolutely game-changing for me. It may very well multiply my stress level when trying to wrangle my task list. But if I can’t prioritize what I do and when, I can’t be efficient or successful. Not in the long run. A little stress now, to alleviate it later makes a whole lot of sense.

Which number is a game changer for you and why?