The One Prioritization Method That Will Boost Your Productivity and Focus
Oftentimes at work or in schooling, there are many tasks to complete. However, not all tasks are created equal. An important skill in life is to be able to prioritize. This article will teach you a simple way to prioritize tasks that only takes a few minutes and can be generalized to any set of tasks.
The method works by creating a ranking table. I find that this works best for me using pen & paper, but you can also opt for using a spreadsheet, presentation software with tables, or a digital notepad.
This method is intended as a rational way to approach prioritization. In the end, it is best to develop an intuition for what should be prioritized, and using this method regularly can help you get there.
How does this benefit you?
Before we get to the methodology, I want to explain why it is important, and how it can benefit you.
This methodology will teach you 3 things:
Lesson 1. Learn to break down projects into sizeable tasks
Lesson 2. Learn to identify importance
Lesson 3. Learn to be selective and get into flow state
How to Use a Ranking Table
There are 5 simple steps:
1. List all your tasks in separate rows
As an example, we can take selecting a book to read during free time. Each task is then reading a separate book.
Different books have different genres, for me personally, I am interested in books on architecture, programming, as well as entrepreneurship.
The table would look like as follows in Figure 1.:
2. List out criteria as new columns in the table
Now, we want to identify criteria to indicate what is important to us. These are written out in the form of columns in the table.
In the example, these could be:
- Financial application in the near term,
- Room for personal growth, and
- The length of the book (the shorter the better)
Other criteria, depending on your ultimate goal, could be:
- Discussability (level of controversy for social inquiry)
- Level of escapism (with the aim for relaxation)
Tips for listing out these criteria include asking yourself:
- “What is your ultimate goal right now?” It could be to become more social, more financially stable, or something else.
- What abstract features of the task are aligned with your goal (e.g. provide the most value)?
- What concrete features are aligned with your goal?
The table would then look like that in Figure 2. below:
3. Score each task for each column
You have to evaluate each task in the view of each criteria and give it a score of importance.
You can do this by adding a ‘✓’ tick for each point that you give.
In this step, aim to be as objective and fair as possible. It helps to look at each criteria one by one, marking each task before moving on to the next criteria.
For me, this would look as follows in Figure 3.:
4. Select your top 3 to work on today
From there, you can tally up the score for each task, and select which your top 3 tasks are for the day.
In the example, I would only be reading one book and prefer not to switch multiple times in a day. The final ranking table would look as in Figure 4.:
5. Select your top 1 to work on right now
From these three tasks, you can then select 1 to work on right now. Most likely, that will be the topmost ranked item.
Once you have selected what you want to work on today, and you have convinced yourself that this is the best task to work on, then the rest of the world fades away and you can get into the flow. I know for me, it has!
Do it enough and develop your intuition
What I love about this method is that you do not have to rely on it forever. When you do this enough, you start to develop an intuition for what is important and should be worked on right now.
As such, this is a method that brings you to the next level and does not aim to inhibit your productivity.
The ranking table can help you isolate the most important task for you at any given point in time. By practicing this method, you can perform your ranking quickly and become confident and focused in your work. This amplifies your productivity and satisfaction in your work.
The ranking table method can help you identify what you care about in your life, as well as help identify when you are stuck with too many options.
I hope this method can help you prioritize and focus on creating value from your actions. If so, please clap :)