How to prioritize tasks at work

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Having a heavy workload can lead to high stress levels. However, if you take the time to plan ahead and prioritize tasks, you should be able to work methodically through your tasks, ensuring the most important ones are completed first. Here are some ways to prioritize tasks at work.

Plan, plan, plan

Whether you normally do or not, if you know you have a heavy workload coming up, then take the time to sit down and plan it all out. Use whatever suits you best – it could simply be a pen and a piece of paper or an Excel spreadsheet, but make sure you list everything that needs to be done and by when. Then look through the plan carefully and decide if there is anything that can be postponed, or passed on to someone else, while highlighting the most important tasks.

Consult your boss and colleagues

Unless you are working on your own, share your plan with your boss and colleagues. They may have some input into it – possibly some ideas of things you may have forgotten, or they may be able to help you with certain tasks. It also enables your boss to know exactly how much work you have on your shoulders and, if necessary, factor in extra help, if only temporarily. If you leave it until the last minute to ask for extra help, it may be too late.

Set your own deadlines

Although you may have dates by which tasks need to be finished, it is always a good idea to set your own deadlines. This way you have a little bit of leeway in case of the unexpected. You may have a piece of work completed and hand it to your boss, who spots a mistake or something else that needs to be added. If you’re ahead of yourself, you can sit back and make the changes in a relaxed manner, knowing that you have some extra time.

Make a regular note of the stage you have reached

Use your ‘plan’ as a working document. On a daily, or maybe weekly basis, make a note of where you are with each particular task. If you are using Excel, maybe use a colour code depending on the stage you have reached, so that you can tell at a glance which tasks still need work and which are completed. It may sound obvious, but there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your list gradually completed.

Take regular breaks

If you are overwhelmed with work, you may feel as though you need to sit at your desk, working late hours until everything is complete. However, you will find it very hard to keep your head and ensure that you are completing tasks in the most orderly fashion if you don’t have a chance to clear your head. Work late hours by all means, but make sure that you have time to relax and unwind at home before you go to bed. Otherwise you may find it hard to sleep.

These tips may seem obvious, but it is amazing how many people struggle to prioritize tasks in an organized way. Planning ahead and having plenty of time to complete tasks can make a real difference to your workload and your general working environment.

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