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Why Should I Use Task Prioritization in Project Management Software?

Often, within a project, there will be tasks that have mandatory dependencies, where the relationship between tasks is absolute, and there’s no question regarding what has to be completed first. For instance, you have to design a product before you can build it, and you have to build it before you can paint it.

But what happens when there aren’t mandatory dependencies? Think about a wedding, for example. You need to choose a date, book a venue, create invitations, find a DJ or band, and so on. But for some tasks, there are no hard and fast rules on what needs to be done first. You could pick a venue and then select your date based on its availability. Or you could pick a date and then find a venue with an opening on that day. 

In scenarios where mandatory dependencies don’t exist, it’s up to the project manager and team to prioritize tasks and define discretionary dependencies. Without task prioritization, your team won’t know what to tackle first. Without a clear order, people can end up frozen with indecision, trying to juggle too many things at once or miss important activities until it’s too late. 

With task prioritization functionality inside your project management software, you can easily manage, monitor, and update priorities as tasks are completed, new work is added, and project requirements or progress changes. Plus it enables you to track and report priorities in a centralized location where every stakeholder can easily see them. 

Prioritizing tasks

Here are five tips from entrepreneur Lauren Perkins, NY Times bestselling author Greg McKeown, and productivity coach Errette Dunn on how you can prioritize tasks in your project schedule:

  1. Re-prioritize task deadlines
  2. Get some space
  3. Pretend you have half the time you actually do
  4. Keep priority singular
  5. Learn to let go
Tip 1: Re-prioritize task deadlines

Imagine it’s Monday morning, and according to your schedule, you have five things all due on Friday and no other deadlines in between. The problem this creates is that it can appear as if you have more time than you really do, which can result in slow progress early in the week, followed by a mad rush come Thursday or Friday.

Since you can't work on all five things simultaneously, you can’t possibly finish them all at the same time. If you’re in this position, it might be time to consider prioritizing your tasks. So, whenever you have the same due date for multiple tasks, the experts suggest creating new, earlier deadlines for some of them. 

Even though your client doesn’t expect the five deliverables until the end of the day on Friday, you may assign yourself new internal deadlines for each one based on priority. For instance, you may change your schedule so the first item is due by the end of the day on Monday, the second item is due by the end of the day on Tuesday, and so on. 

Tip 2: Get some space

It can often be easy to lose sight of the big picture and where your project’s priorities lie. 

Remember to take regular breaks from work to decompress and re-focus on your goals.

Sometimes all you need is a short coffee break and casual discussion with a coworker to reassess which areas need your focus and effort the most. 

Tip 3: Pretend you have half the time you actually do

When planning out your workday, it’s important to assume you don’t have a full day to be productive. After all, if your typical workday is eight hours, you won’t actually be working on projects for every minute. You need to take out time for meetings, lunch, and other distractions. 

A good way to prioritize your work is to assume you only have half a workday. So, in other words, if your normal day is eight hours, assume you only have four productive hours to complete tasks. 

By planning on only four hours' worth of project work, you’re forced to prioritize and reduce distractions and interruptions. You automatically build a buffer in case tasks run over or something else comes up. 

Tip 4: Keep priority singular

Keep in mind the original definition of the word ‘priority’: a single, most important task or idea. Begin work by laying out your one priority for the day — don’t be tempted to multitask or jump between different activities on your to-do list.

Not only is this an inefficient use of your time, but you’ll also feel unfocused and pulled in too many directions at once.

Tip 5: Learn to let go

Sometimes tasks end up on our to-do list that don’t need to be there. It’s important to assess the activities on your list to determine whether they should lie on your priority list or someone else's.

In some cases, there may be tasks that are just “nice to have” or aren’t providing value, and you can remove them from the project. For instance, maybe you’re creating a report every Friday that no one is reading. 

In other cases, the work needs to be done but just not by you. Look for tasks that you can delegate to other team members, junior staff, or people who have more capacity than you do. 

Benefits of task prioritization

Without an efficient way to prioritize projects and tasks, you’re forced to handle them on an ad hoc basis. Not only does this increase the risk of important deadlines being missed, but it can also lead to everything seeming urgent. Treating each new request as a fire drill wears on your team, causing debilitating stress and burnout over time.

Task prioritization provides everyone with a more predictable workflow, gives your team more insight into upcoming work, and prevents last-minute scrambling to meet deadlines.

Clearly prioritizing work can also help you manage subcontractors, freelancers, and remote workers. 

Without outlining clear priorities, off-site and external workers may assume that work should be handled in the order that they receive it. Obviously, this can cause problems when timelines shift or new requirements crop up. 

By assigning priorities right within your project management software, there’s never any question as to what needs to be tackled first. Team members, including external ones, can simply log into the software and sort their tasks by priority to see where they need to focus their efforts.

Further reading
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