So you’ve learnt about the importance Vs urgency matrix, and been blown away by the simplicity of it’s prioritisation method. You’ve promised yourself that you’ll prioritise and schedule the important but not urgent tasks into your week.
But wait! ALL of your tasks are important AND urgent! Or perhaps you simply have TOO MANY important and urgent tasks (thus rendering the matrix redundant).
This has happened to me, and I’ve got some tips to share to help you get through this problem.
Do it again, Sam
Redo the matrix, but be more extreme in your definition of urgent and important. Look at each task in turn and ask yourself “Is this REALLY important? Is this REALLY urgent?” Perhaps you originally considered everything with a deadline this week was urgent – how about making that definition apply to everything with a deadline of today?
Remember that the point of using the importance vs urgency matrix is to prioritise your tasks; so this tip will help you put the tasks in order.
Ask your boss
Speak to your boss and tell them about the situation you are in. Be positive – no boss wants to hear a moan about how busy you are (imagine how busy they are!)
Before you approach your boss make sure you have a provisional plan or priority list ready. This allows you to have a constructive conversation about your issue, plus you get brownie points for using a professional approach to a problem. You never know, they might hold back some of the tasks they were planning to shove your way (AKA delegate!)
Why are you so busy? Why is everything urgent? Sounds like you have too many inputs.
What do I mean by an input? Anything that is requesting a task from you. Your boss, her boss, the MD, reports that you need to read, reports you need to create, projects you’re on etc… If you are accountable to too many workstreams then you will become too busy to cope.
So – how can you reduce the number of inputs? Below are a few tips – the key thing is to start becoming protective of your time – nobody else will be!
- Say “no” more often – see this post for tips
- Ask for time frames up front – feedback when unfeasible.
- Delegate your tasks
- Turn off your phone, close down your inbox
- Be careful of volunteering your time to new projects or work
- Get your boss to help you reduce these inputs where feasible
Schedule it! Stick to it!
If you’re struggling with work load then a really good plan is to block out your schedule and then allocate time to each task. I know plenty of people that do this – but sometimes this schedule is not followed (perhaps other tasks shout for your attention, or perhaps you are a procrastinator…) Try to avoid this – your schedule/diary/calendar should be your guide to what to do when. If you’ve blocked out time for something – then stick to it!
The bottom line
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post and got a couple of good tips out of it. My approach to prioritisation starts with doing a five year plan, then working out tasks to fit into the important Vs urgent matrix. These steps work really well for me – I can honestly promise you that my ability to prioritise has drastically improved compared to when I had no plan.
Remember that your time is important; nobody else should have the final say as to how you spend it.