How to prioritise your time

Developing our knowledge, skills and abilities in prioritising our time is not only important to our life success, it is important in our everyday work success. Prioritising is a good way to make sure that we manage our time effectively. Making conscious decisions about how we use our time helps us to have more efficacy in our lives and moves us closer towards what is important to us.

There are many ways we can prioritise our tasks so that we can ensure that we get the important things done on a day to day basis. We will discuss a few options below:

To do list: At the beginning of each day or week, write down in a diary or a piece of paper what you aim to get done and the due date. It is a good idea to rank these tasks according to the importance or urgency to plan your day.

Set realistic deadlines for your tasks: Look at your to do list and estimate the time each task needs to be completed. Be realistic and honest of what you can achieve in that time so that you are not overwhelmed before you begin.

Allow time for interruptions: We often do not account for interruptions that happen during our day. Small interruptions such as phone calls, discussions, urgent emails etc. can make it difficult to meet deadlines. A good way to manage this is only dealing with urgent queries during this time until you have completed your urgent task. You can also switch your phone to silent and turn off your email notifications so that you will not be distracted.

Keep a log of your workload: By keeping a record of your previous tasks, you will be able to determine how long they took you to complete. You can factor in thinking time, discussion time, interruptions etc. to assist you in planning your work week in the future.

Create a matrix: Dwight Eisenhower’s principle of addressing tasks in order of importance and urgency is widely used by people to make better and more planned decisions in how to prioritise their time. Eisonhower’s matrix has four quadrants as identified below, it can be used to plan our priority areas that we want to address. Each quadrant is used to list tasks of what a person thinks they need to or want to address in a given amount of time.

Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Simply listing out our tasks in this way can help to clear some of the thoughts and ideas out of our heads to be able to think more clearly. Mapping out the list provides a good visual aide to remind us that our time is valuable and helps us to feel rewarded when we get to check tasks off the list when they are complete! An example of some tasks are presented below for each quadrant.

  1. Do it immediately – Urgent and important tasks i.e. Deadlines for work tasks and projects. Making an appointment with an emergency relief agency to access food vouchers and financial aide for warm clothing.
  2. Decide when you’ll do it – Important and not urgent. i.e. Strategic thinking and relationship building. Allocating time to practice for your interview next week. Booking in time to practice with a friend on how to respond to interview questions.
  3. Delegate to someone– Urgent but not important. Relevant to people who are managers where they may require assistance with answering some emails or telephone calls.
  4. Do it later – Not important and not urgent. i.e. Sort junk mail, browsing the web aimlessly, procrastinating and wasting time tasks.


The next time you might be feeling overwhelmed with all you must do – remember that you can use some of the tips as suggested above to assist you in achieving and prioritising your tasks and not becoming overwhelmed.

Happy prioritising!

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