[A collaboration post – all thoughts are my own.]
With working from home becoming the norm with the COVID-19 pandemic, being organized with your workload and prioritizing your to-do list are more important than ever.
Sometimes everything seems like a top priority. When you are constantly rushing to finish your work, it could be difficult to decide what to do at a particular time and what to do later. To keep my sanity and ensure that I met deadlines, I learned a few useful productivity tips, one of which is time management skill.
Mastering time management can be difficult with an overflowing to-do list and constantly moving targets. By improving time management through trial and error, you can comfortably manage your workflow efficiently. It also allows you to complete more work because you are able to prioritize your to-do list.
When you accomplish your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks effectively, it gives you personal satisfaction and peace of mind, and improves your reliability and credibility in the workplace.
Create a daily to-do list
The first natural step before beginning to prioritize your to-do list is to list down all the specific tasks that you have and want to do. This will give you a big-picture overview of your workload for today.
- On your planner, write down all the daily tasks that you wish to complete.
- In addition, list down both short-term and long-term activities that you need to complete. These can include tasks to be done within the next week, month, year, or more than one year.
A simple to-do list consists of task numbers, due dates or deadlines, and priority levels. A better practice is to check your planner before closing your day. I checked my completed tasks and updated the daily to-do list for tomorrow, which gave me a preview of what the following day’s schedule would look like.
If you are not able to update your to-do list in the evening, the best option is to do it first thing in the morning when you get to work. Writing down your tasks is always the best routine to prioritize your to-do list.
Prioritizing your to-do list
It can be overwhelming trying to finish everything on your to-do list in a single day. After preparing your to-do list, prioritize your to-do list by selecting what should be done first and why it should be done. Prioritizing allows you to see the highest to lowest priority tasks visually.
Ranking your tasks using simple 123 priority levels is an easy way to prioritize your to-do list:
- Priority 1 (do it now-completed immediately)
- Priority 2 (do it soon-can wait but should be done soon)
- Priority 3 (do at leisure-can be done when you have downtime)
To begin managing your priorities, simply add the rank next to tasks on your to-do list. Then you can sort your list by priority level. Next, after you have ranked the tasks on your list, you can extract the high-priority tasks every day. Put them on a short list of tasks that you will complete in a single day.
Constantly checking out on the deadlines of each task – some work needs to be started well in advance of a deadline to complete it.
Do the little things in the first hour of the day
I start working around 9 a.m., and I know the first thing I must do after turning on my laptop. It’s the best time for me to finish a task that demands a lot of attention, such as translating a document or doing a literary translation. For some people, the morning hours are the best time to concentrate for two hours on quick and easy priority tasks.
- Administrative tasks
- Checking and responding to personal emails
- Managing email list management
- Reply to comments, messages, or mentions on social media
If you have a big task or project to do, it is a good idea to break up large projects into more manageable parts and then start working on one small step after another.
Time blocking – being realistic about what you can do in a day
Whether you use a digital or physical planner to prioritize your to-do list, take the time to break up the day according to your tasks. Actually, I’m not a fan of time blocking, but I gave it a try and it worked for me!
Estimating your time will help you prioritize your to-do list and create a realistic plan for what you can accomplish in a single day. It can cause frustration over time when your list is too long and frequently not completed. When you try to do too much at once, it could have the opposite effect in terms of missing deadlines, declining productivity, being anxious, and experiencing burnout.
Ideally, planning your daily prioritize will show how much you can accomplish within the available time, taking into account your normal working pace or speed. Here are some tips to help you prioritize your to-do list:
- Schedule time to do work on your calendar
- Visualize what the final outcome will look like for each task you do
- Do one thing well at a time
- Build momentum by moving from one completed task to a new one seamlessly
- Start work on your priorities early enough to avoid rushing at the last minute to meet deadlines
- Take small breaks to get rejuvenated
- Commit to completing your tasks
- Reflect on tasks accomplished
When given a project to complete, the deadline helps in managing priorities and gives a roadmap on how much time you have to complete a specific task. This will help you adjust your effort and speed to prioritize your to-do list.
Start by analyzing the work required and resources to successfully complete the task. Set reminders for deadlines and regularly update the list.
Handle the interruptions
Interruptions are an inevitable part of your life and workday. Interruptions can take a toll on your productivity and eat up your valuable time. Calls, messages, app notifications, someone talking loudly, your kids needing you, your dogs needing your attention, and constant traffic from others are all common interruptions when working from home.
When you get interrupted, you lose your momentum and focus, and it takes time to get back to a steady working pace. When you are regularly starting and stopping a task because of interruptions, it can increase the amount of time needed to complete a task.
Identify what kinds of interruptions you face frequently and come up with solutions to keep the interruptions under control as best you can. Here are a few ways to deal with constant interruptions:
- Turn off notifications for emails, apps, messages, etc.
- When interrupted by someone, quickly listen to what the request is to determine the urgency.
- If a request will take time to process, request to talk later and actually follow through.
- If you can quickly address the request, give your answer, and get back to your priorities.
- Let your family know when you are working on a time-sensitive deadline to give you some space.
- Wear headphones.
- Check and respond to emails at specific intervals.
Managing perfectionism and procrastination
Well, perfectionism is the desire and practice to keep making something better and better.
The desire for perfectionism can likewise slow you down and cause you to spend too much time on a simple task, not knowing when to stop working on something and getting caught up in polishing details and over-processing.
To manage perfectionism, you can do these steps:
- Giving a task your best effort then let it go
- Learning what the standards are for completed work and using this as a guide to strive for
- Being flexible
If these are good enough, move on to the next task.
Procrastination can cause a to-do list to have a specific set of tasks that are ever-present and keep rolling over from one to-do list to another, constantly weighing you down with the knowledge that you have so much pending work that has to be tackled at some point.
Procrastination can happen through the habit of continuously putting off tasks that you dislike doing and doing things at the last minute—where you are not motivated enough and are simply avoiding tasks until you have no choice but to do them because the tasks won’t go away on your to-do list.
Procrastination can likewise be caused by perfectionism, where you put off work because it will take too much time to complete it to your desired standards.
To be honest, one of the blogging tasks that I sometimes avoid is manually uploading fresh pins on Pinterest. Since the Pinterest algorithm is constantly up and down, it affects my mood, and I’m not motivated enough to do it. But, still, this task will be there on my to-do list!
Get rid of the misery brought about by procrastination by analyzing why you don’t enjoy doing them, breaking them down into smaller parts, and pushing yourself to attack each piece within a specific timeframe. Keep repeating this process until the large activity is completed.
There is a sense of relief in completing tasks that we have procrastinated on. Let this sense of satisfaction spur you onward to complete all pending tasks on your priority list.
Using handy productivity tools
I can’t get organized without my planner or some handy productivity tools. While you love using a paper organizer or notebook to write down your priorities, if you’re going paperless, try these out:
- Trello – a free popular task list platform you can use both on your phone and desktop. I love this one! It provides you with space to add details and reminders. The free version is good enough for individuals to keep organized and on track for their blogging tasks or work life.
- Todoist – is one of my favorite online apps that helps you list your tasks and keep track of all your activities. It comes in a free simple version and an affordable premium version that provides you with amazing features.
Aside from having a great to-do list, editing and proofreading your work can be time consuming. Since I’m not a native English speaker, this is why I love using Grammarly. It helps me quickly make edits to my spelling and grammar mistakes. You can use this on your phone by downloading the app, or on your desktop when you write emails, documents, etc. by installing the extension. For bloggers, it’s really a great tool to speed up your writing and content creation processes.
I hope these tips help you get yourself organized and ready to conquer the day!
Do you have any tips you on how to prioritize your to-do list? Let me know below!