Learning how to prioritise is a skill that takes refining. It involves being highly analytical to assess the order in which tasks need completing.

Prioritising needs approaching with a clear head, which, when you log in first thing on a Monday morning and see a jam-packed diary, is not always the easiest thing to do. But it’s important to remember that being busy doesn’t always equate to being productive.

Adrienne Herbert – author of The Power Hour: How to Focus on your Goals and Create a Life You Love – is an advocate for quality over quantity. Herbert suggests that with eight urgent tasks on your plate, it’s better to spend 50% of your time completing only two of those tasks, rather than spending an hour on each. Yes, more tasks are complete, but you may be left questioning the quality of that work. By prioritising the most important tasks, and focusing your time on doing them well, rather than jumping between tasks as a tick-box action, will ensure better quality of work, and more satisfaction in the completion of it in the long run.

The task of prioritising is simple once you’ve got the hang of it. Here are some helpful tips on how to prioritise your workload when everything seems important:

Urgent vs Important

The debate between what is urgent vs what is important is crucial when it comes to organising your priorities. Everything in your workload is important (usually) but evaluating what is urgent helps to determine your list of priorities.

The Eisenhower Matrix can help with this. The Eisenhower Matrix is a decision-making tool to help you organise your to-do list in order of urgency and importance which makes a long list of tasks more digestible and feasible to accomplish.


Quadrant 1:

The ‘Do’ quadrant includes tasks that are both urgent and important. They require your immediate attention. This often comes when there is a pressing deadline or in a time of crises.

Quadrant 2:

Take the time to decide when you deal with certain tasks. They’re important, but they are not urgent; there is no immediate action required, therefore they can be scheduled for a time that suits you better.

Quadrant 3:

Tasks that can be delegated fall into this section. They are urgent, perhaps with that pressing deadline we mentioned above, but not necessarily demanding of your time. Measuring levels of importance is subjective, but don’t forget that others are there to help in times of need.

Quadrant 4:

These are the items that are not urgent nor important; reading the onslaught of newsletters that might be sat in your inbox for example. If you have a spare five minutes, work through anything flagged or left un-actioned in your inbox, but these types of tasks should not take priority over others on your list. Delete these unnecessary emails where you can to free up brain space for the bigger demands on your time and attention.


Having all your tasks listed in one place is a helpful way to visualise your workload. Whilst it may seem daunting at first, you’ll thank yourself for not having to flick between documents or scroll back through emails to find tasks, when you’re knee-deep into your work day.

There are lots of different (and simple) ways you can keep your tasks all in one place.

Use an online platform such as Microsoft Planner or Trello

Tools like these are great as they enable you to clearly see the tasks you are working on, but you can also set yourself deadlines, colour code them according to levels of importance, update the notes, and assign them to other people in your team.

Sticky notes

I’m not just referring to physical sticky notes here – although if you like to plaster your desk in colourful little reminders, then go for it! Download a sticky note programme on your device, and when you have a new task, write it down on a note and attach it to your digital desktop – this is a fun way to keep a visual record of what’s on your plate.

Go traditional and use a notebook

If you’re old school and would rather physically write a note down, have a designated notebook or diary for your tasks can help you visualise what you need to get done each day, week, or month (Just make sure you don’t lose it!).

Start a Word document

If you prefer to keep your lists digital but don’t like the formats the above tools might offer you – use a word document on your PC to write a list of your daily or weekly tasks.


Seeing your work laid out on a timeline is also a helpful way to juggle your productivity. Figuring out your deadlines and being able to visualise that may be a useful way to determine urgency vs importance.

Consider using a Gantt Chart – a popular tool used heavily in project management to help display tasks against time and define the sequence in which they fall. This will help illustrate a clear vision of what tasks you have on, how long they are scheduled to take, and what other priorities you have that may result in a clash. Not only would this be a great way to manage your to-do list, but would also be fantastic in maintaining unified communication between colleagues and employees.


If your task doesn’t have a deadline, consider setting yourself one. The last thing you want is to get bogged down with other tasks which seem to be a priority because they have a deadline, and then end up forgetting about others.

Estimated Effort

Assessing how long your tasks might take and how much effort is going to be required is a good way of working out your order of priorities.

According to experts, starting with the lengthier tasks on your list is a better way to be productive.

Ticking off that big report that has been bogging you down all week will feel so satisfying once it’s done, and then you can work through your other smaller bits of work.

However, for some people, checking off smaller tasks before diving into the heftier ones is a better way to move forward productively. Learning what works best for you takes time – so experiment to find your most productive strategy for you.

Flexibility & Adaptability

Within your list of priorities, make sure to allow yourself time for ‘white space’. Another concept from Adrienne Herbert, leaving some time within your day with nothing scheduled will allow you to be able to work flexibly if something comes in last minute, or the way you approach a task needs to change.

Having that empty or ‘admin’ time planned into your day will enable you to take five minutes here and there to complete quick tasks, like firing off an email, filing your sent box, or making a phone call without feeling pressure.

Set Boundaries

The idea of being flexible within your work day segways nicely onto the art of saying ‘no’. Allowing yourself time to be adaptable during your work day is important, but it’s equally important to say no to incoming tasks if you don’t feel like you have the capacity to take it on without prior notice. Prioritising your own workload over the needs of others’ is sometimes as equally important a task!

Be confident in pushing back on tasks by offering a solution as to when you may be able to offer support – this will help set boundaries for you and your team.


Adopting these strategies can have a major impact on helping to maximise your time. But remember, no matter how well you plan, organise, and prioritise, there is only so much one can achieve in a day.

Forgive yourself for giving in to the inevitable distractions, and keep your sights set on the bigger picture. The purpose of prioritising is both to help you manage the immediate workload laid before you, but also to keep you and your team moving in the right direction so that you continue to thrive and achieve.

We’re not claiming prioritising your work to be a fail-safe to having a good day every day, but it will be huge in helping you feel like you are always making progress and can take a guilt-free, well-deserved break.

How to Prioritise When Everything is Important

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