How Do You Prioritize Tasks When Everything Seems Urgent?

How Do You Prioritize Tasks When Everything Seems Urgent?

In high-stakes business situations, prioritizing tasks is crucial, especially when every task appears urgent. We've gathered insights from eight professionals including a time management consultant and a managing partner, offering strategies from allocating time blocks to using a color-coding system. Discover how these experts manage their demanding workloads and provide specific instances of their techniques in action.

  • Reflect to Identify True Priorities
  • Sift Through Tasks Sequentially
  • Apply the Eisenhower Box Technique
  • Use Digital Tools for Organized Task Lineup
  • Allocate Time Blocks for Flexibility
  • Color-Code and Rank Daily Tasks
  • Assess Impact and Delegate Strategically
  • Consider Industry-Specific Contingencies

Reflect to Identify True Priorities

If everything is considered important, then nothing is actually important. Such a simple yet powerful thought that has guided my business since its inception.

Every Friday, I make a plan for the following week, and I determine what tasks are actually important by reflecting on the following questions:

1. What am I working for?

2. How am I measuring my success?

3. What did I agree to?

The answers to these questions help prioritize the many demands for my time and ensure I have allocated time to the right things.

Samantha Lane
Samantha LaneTime Management Consultant & Keynote Speaker, Origami Day

Sift Through Tasks Sequentially

When everything is urgent, your priorities are out of whack. That is because, as human beings, despite all the hype about multitasking and mothers doing five things at the same time, which I get, when it comes to running an office or a company, we need to focus our energy.

Multitasking is not concentrated work. We must appreciate that we do our best work in a way similar to how sand passes through the neck of an hourglass, one grain at a time. No matter how much sand needs to pass through that hourglass, it will only pass through one grain at a time. The same holds for our best work—it must be focused and attended to one item at a time.

Returning to the topic of everything being urgent, we need to go through a sifting process. For example, when stressed, I take all my urgent files and put them on my desk. I then take the top two and ask which is most urgent. I take that one and compare it with the next file, asking the same question. I run a tennis-competition-like sorting exercise with my files, ultimately choosing the winner. I then know what order of files to work on. Andy Semotiuk, U.S. and Canadian Immigration Lawyer, Pace Law Firm.

Andy SemotiukU.S. and Canadian Immigration Lawyer, Pace Law Firm

Apply the Eisenhower Box Technique

One practical method we utilize at Spectup is the "Eisenhower Box" technique, which helps distinguish between tasks that are urgent, important, both, or neither. This approach ensures that decision-making is both swift and strategic.

For example, during a recent high-stakes project for a client facing a merger, every issue seemed pressing. The team had to navigate legal hurdles, prepare documentation, and communicate with stakeholders simultaneously. By applying the Eisenhower Box, we categorized tasks such as legal approvals and stakeholder meetings as both urgent and important—these were handled first. Tasks like reviewing long-term integration plans, while important, were not urgent, so they were scheduled for later.

This method not only helped in managing time efficiently but also in maintaining mental clarity and focus, which is essential when the stakes are high.

Niclas Schlopsna
Niclas SchlopsnaManaging Consultant and CEO, spectup

Use Digital Tools for Organized Task Lineup

Staying organized with all tasks is crucial, and I use ClickUp to create a lineup of deliverables I need to accomplish for each client. I also use Reclaim as a planning tool, which lets me manage my multiple Google Calendars and avoid double-booking.

For balancing urgency and priority, I focus on communication and relationship with each client. My goal is to cause the least amount of disruption to their internal processes, to deliver on time, and to be proactive when deadlines might move.

Rachel Moore
Rachel MooreCEO, But Wait, There's Moore

Allocate Time Blocks for Flexibility

As an operations consultant, prioritizing tasks and clients presents a constant challenge. The need for operational support often arises unexpectedly and requires immediate attention. To address this, I've structured my days with designated blocks of time for handling unexpected tasks. Additionally, I allocate specific blocks of time for tasks such as financial management, focusing on specific clients, and evaluating vendors. This allows me to focus on one thing at a time and produce results quickly.

Rachel SchultiesFractional COO, RSS Business Solutions

Color-Code and Rank Daily Tasks

Prioritizing my tasks, especially when everything seems urgent, isn't an easy process. My calendar is continually overflowing with time blocks that compete for my time and attention. To start, I use color-coding on the blocks to instantly help my brain sort the type of task (client, prospect, family, personal) at a glance. Next, I keep a manual list of my hottest projects and number them 1, 2, or 3 at the start of each workday. Finally, I take from Cal Newport's 'Deep Work' philosophy and focus exclusively on that task for a dedicated amount of time. With distractions minimized and time blocks prioritized, I succeed, not only in being more efficient, but also in becoming less overwhelmed.

Cecilia GormanCreator, Manager Boot Camp

Assess Impact and Delegate Strategically

As the founder of a legal process outsourcing company, prioritizing tasks amidst competing urgencies is a skill I've honed over years of experience. One specific instance that stands out is when we faced a sudden influx of urgent client requests coinciding with a critical deadline for a major project.

Drawing from real-life experiences, I implemented a strategic approach that involved, firstly, assessing the potential impact and urgency of each task.

Using a combination of project management tools and team collaboration, we identified high-priority tasks crucial for meeting immediate client needs and mitigating risks. Simultaneously, we delegated less critical tasks to team members based on their expertise and availability, ensuring that all aspects of the project remained on track.

This approach not only helped us navigate the crisis seamlessly but also strengthened our team's resilience and adaptability in handling future challenges.

Aseem Jha
Aseem JhaFounder, Legal Consulting Pro

Consider Industry-Specific Contingencies

In injury law, prioritizing tasks amid urgency is crucial to ensure that clients receive timely and effective legal representation. When confronted with numerous pressing matters, legal professionals specializing in injury law must first assess the severity of each case.

For instance, if a client has sustained severe injuries in a workplace accident, requiring immediate medical attention and potential long-term disability, this case demands immediate action to secure compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs.

Additionally, considerations such as statutes of limitations, evidence collection, witness testimonies, and expert consultations must be prioritized to strengthen the client's claim. By strategically managing these tasks, injury lawyers can advocate for their clients' rights and provide essential support during their time of need.

Hunter Garnett
Hunter GarnettManaging Partner and Founder, Garnett Patterson Injury Lawyers

Copyright © 2024 Featured. All rights reserved.