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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 which 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. Because without task prioritization, your team won’t know what to tackle first. And 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 5 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 now Monday morning, and according to your schedule, you have 5 things all do on Friday, and no other deadlines between now and then. 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 it’s not possible for you to work on all 5 things simultaneously, you can’t possibly finish them all at exactly 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. 

So, even though your client doesn’t expect the 5 deliverables until the end of the day on Friday, you may assign yourself new internal deadlines for each 1 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

Sometimes when you get too close to the details, you lose sight of the big picture, which can make it hard to understand where your priorities should lie. 

In order to avoid this, it’s important to take a regular step back from your task work to clear your head, re-focus, and consider the project as a whole. 

Sometimes all you may need is a short coffee break and casual discussion with a coworker to help you reassess and remember what the key outcomes of the project are and 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 workday to be productive. After all, if your typical workday is 8 hours, you won’t actually be working on project work for every minute of that. 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 8 hours, assume you only have 4 productive hours to complete tasks. 

By planning on only 4 hours worth of project work, you’re forced to prioritize and reduce distractions and interruptions. Plus you automatically build in a bit of a buffer in case tasks run over or something else comes up. 

Tip 4: Keep priority singular

When the word “priority” first appeared in the English language, it was singular, as in the one most-important thing. It’s only been in the last century that we’ve started to identify multiple priorities. 

It’s important to take back the word’s original meaning and choose only one priority for each day. If you don’t have a hierarchy with one single priority at the top, you may feel pressure to multitask or jump back and forth between priorities. 

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 really need to be there. It’s important to assess the activities on your list to determine if they need to be done and if they need to be done by you.

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 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. And 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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Seeing Is Achieving: How Visibility Fuels Efficiency in the Workplace

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Going Global With Wrike: How We Built an Efficient Localization Process

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5 Best Practices for Managing Incoming Work Requests