6 Tips to Help You Figure Out What to Prioritize This Week

Whether it’s a busy week, or your weeks always overwhelm, learning to prioritize is paramount. Strategizing where to invest your time becomes the difference between a recuperating weekend or chaotic weeks that melt into each other.

Here are six tips to help you figure out what to prioritize this week (and see you safely to the weekend).

1. Start with a priority matrix

Draw two lines intersecting at a 90-degree angle. The vertical line represents importance, the horizontal one effort. Inside these lines, add a square and separated it into four quadrants. You have created the first of many gainful priority matrices.

The quadrant in the upper-right corner is farthest on both the horizontal and vertical axes. Tasks placed in this box are important and require considerable effort. This is your major tasks box. As for the other three quadrants:

  • The upper-left requires little effort but is important (quick wins),
  • The lower-left requires little effort and isn’t important (house-cleaning tasks), and
  • The lower-right requires great effort but isn’t important (arduous grinds).

Now list the week’s tasks in their appropriate quadrants. If new tasks arise, fit them in. When a task is done, mark it off. With this method, you’ll know at a glance what you need to accomplish and its importance, making prioritizing much easier.

2. Priority pitfalls

Prioritization depends on deadlines, time sensitivity, energy costs, and the order of subsequent tasks. As such, each week’s priorities will be unique and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. But everyone should avoid these common pitfalls.

Everything isn’t a priority. Be ruthless in your assessment and learn to say no to avoid stress and frustration.

Don’t prioritize major projects all at once. Space out work on major projects, and schedule mental breaks in-between.

Limit multitasking. Multitasking reduces productivity and distracts the mind. The less you attempt it, the more streamlined your efforts will be.

Don’t neglect your health. Prioritize sleep, exercise, and relaxation besides work. Productivity requires you to be in top shape.

Remember Parkinson’s Law. “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” So, stick to those deadlines!

3. Schedule an MIT

Every day should have a most important task (MIT). Typically, your MIT will be a stage of your current major project. If you’re hitting those quick wins, consider prioritizing two or three.

Work on your MIT when you are at your most effective. For many of us, this will be from early morning to before lunch. But everyone’s chronotype is different, so plan to your needs.

Whenever it’s scheduled, safeguard this time. Don’t allow non-MIT work to creep in, and reschedule meetings for later in the day.

4. When to clean house

Schedule your house cleaning and arduous grinds for your burn out hours. Think about the after-lunch crash. You’re tired, and your mind isn’t at peak performance. It’s the perfect time to organize your desk or get your inbox to zero. It’s not a good time to prioritize important work.

5. Be adaptive

No matter how diligently you prioritize your projects, the only true given is change. To overcome, foster an adaptive mindset. If a major project develops in a new direction, cut less important tasks to accommodate. If a sick day stalls your momentum, try to delegate tasks or reschedule deadlines.

Changed plans are exasperating, but the more we accept it and practice adaptability, the easier it becomes to prioritize alongside uncertainty.

6. Stay honest

Finally, be honest with yourself. Speak up if you take on more work than you can handle. Delegate some of those quick wins or ignore those arduous grinds. If no amount of prioritizing reduces your stress and mental anguish, cut back to a manageable level.

And a bonus tip, relish the achievement of a well-prioritized week. Enjoy your work and your newfound ability to increase your efficiency. Prioritizing isn’t just about making your work week more manageable; it’s about making it more rewarding, too.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market