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Step 4 of Time and Task Management - Work Down the Prioritized ListTime and Task Management: 5 of 6

Step 4: Work down your list, and stay only on the task you are on until you cannot do anything more with it.

Ugh. That’s my response to today’s blog post – ugh. What a difficult, terribly difficult, concept. I still struggle with this one constantly. You have created finally your task or to-do list and prioritized it, but if you can’t stick with it, it becomes meaningless. And by stick with it, I mean that excluding Critical tasks, you must stay on the course of what you prioritized.

For myself, there tends to be three common reasons I come off of my prioritized task list:

  1. There is a to-do I’d rather be working on.
  2. There is something easier to do (I’m working on a hard to-do).
  3. I get distracted by emails (or phone calls) coming in.

I can’t wait until I can finally draw the next blog picture!
In the first scenario, this usually happens when my list has a to-do that I really want to do, but it’s low on my list. I want to skip ahead to this one! As a real example, I struggle to keep anything related to the blog in its proper place on a task list, because I love writing and I love creating pictures, but the blog is not as high in priority as a client’s website.

I really don’t want to be updating the process and procedures for this.
The second issue is like the first – I’m working on a difficult task, and just about anything else on my list would be easier than what I’m currently doing. Usually this happens when I have to plan something out, or I’m trying to solve a problem by breaking it down into actionable steps – the brain power required for this is so much greater than most everything else on my list, and usually kind of “technical”*, that I would rather not do this task versus other to-dos.

Okay, now I’m going to—Ooh, shiny new interesting problem just came in!
The last scenario is probably a common issue for everyone. Outside of making sure there are no “Critical” tasks, I can easily get distracted by all the emails, phone calls, and mundane tasks that come in on my desk. I’m hard at work going down my priority list, and then I get a call…can RevBuilders fix this on such-and-such website? Sure! Obviously, anything really quick and it may not require being put on the list, but oftentimes it’s not a quick-fix, and what I should do instead of hurrying on to do the edit is to look at my priority list and figure out where this task goes. Maybe that is what I’m working on next, but then I should add it to the top, and once I finish it go right back to working down the task priority list. If I don’t do add this task to my list, even if it is my top priority, oftentimes I start the process of breaking the cycle; that is, I came off the list, and then I find it harder and harder to get back on the list as more and more tasks come pouring in.

Focus On Your Priority List…Again. And again. And again….
How to keep yourself focused on the priority list is dependent on you, and is dependent on you being active about it. And I mean active! If you are easily distracted by other tasks you would rather do, or by emails or phone calls coming in that make themselves sound important (but don’t really belong at the top of your priority list), prepare yourself, and focus all of your attention on the task at hand. You can’t stop work from coming in, but you can stop yourself from rushing off to everything that comes your way.

That’s it for this one. This is such a difficult step for me that I don’t have much more to say, except good luck, and please share anything that has worked for you! I would love to learn more ways of focusing on my task priority list.

*For those of you wondering, since I handle calls for technical troubleshooting at work, I’ve been described as a “pattern mathematician,” because over time I can see that certain errors are normally caused by certain problems, and here are ways to fix those problems.

Time and Task Management Series:

5 Steps to More Effective Time and Task Management (1 of 6)
Be Realistic About Time (2 of 6)
Schedule Time for Prioritization (3 of 6)
Prioritize (4 of 6)
Work Down the Prioritized List (5 of 6)
If Emergency Re-Prioritize (6 of 6)
Time and Task Management Includes Break (Bonus)

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Tamara Schaad

Writing has been a long-time love of mine, and RevBuilders offers me a wide variety of opportunities to hone my skills in written communication. I also love making plans and processes, and to serve both our team and our customers in a number of ways, making sure that everyone involved in the day-to-day operations is happy.