Module Three: Prioritize

The organization doesn’t only refer to our physical items and physical possessions; it can also include organizing our time and activities. Taking time to label what we want and what we need to accomplish allows us to sort through everything on our plate and find out how to tackle it. Since everything is lined out and identified, regulating our time and energy can seem less overwhelming.

Write It Down

When organizing your priorities, it is important to write them all down and make yourself some sort of ‘master’ list because it helps you remember everything you want to accomplish or complete later. This list gives you a visual aide to use when making organizational decisions. You don’t have to list the items in any particular order, but just list anything that comes to mind. Once you feel you have completed the list (for now), then you can go back and assign their priority order. Common codes such as ABC or 123 can be used to determine each listings priority and how you will proceed with each one.

Urgent/Important Matrix

Sometimes we confuse our urgent priorities with our important ones, which can cause us to be confused about what to take care of first. The Urgent/Important Matrix is a tool that we can use to think about our priorities and how we handle them. Before we can use the matrix, we must write down everything we want to accomplish in a certain period of time, such as daily, weekly, or even further and assign their priority in which we want to get them done (See the previous exercise).

The matrix is divided into four quadrants, each ranging in importance, and allows for activities and projects to be plotted in each one based on their need. Using the list you created, you would plot each job in the corresponding quadrant. After all of the tasks have been plotted, we can see all of the things we want or need to do and how urgent or important they are to us. This leads us to make better choices regarding our time management and overall organization.

There are many versions of the Urgent/Important Matrix that can be used for various things. We’ve included a common version that can be used with everyday activities for this exercise.

Divide Tasks

Now that you’ve made a list and categorized all of the things you want to accomplish, it can seem overwhelming or even intimidating to get started. But by dividing your tasks into smaller groups of things to do, we can feel more empowered to get them done. Tasks can be divided any way that is convenient, such as things to do for one particular project or maybe even things to do that involve going through papers. The key is to find what combination works for you.

Helpful hints:

  • Sort tasks by each specific project
  • Decide what tasks can be done the fastest
  • Determine what tasks will need more time

80/20 Rule

Simply put, the 80/20 Rule emphasizes the need to focus on what is important to us and disregarding the rest. In most cases, 20% of things we have or accumulate are important to us, while the other 80% is usually trivial, if not useless. If the 20% is handled first and focused upon, the remaining 80% practically takes care of itself. For example, using the 80/20 Rule, you can sit down with your daily to-do list and identify the top three or four projects or tasks that need to be done (the 20%). Then outline the less important or mundane things that can be done next, or even at a later time (the 80%). By focusing on what is the most important/urgent first, we are more focused and ready to tackle them. Once they are completed, the rest of the tasks seem less daunting and can be done with ease.

The 80/20 Rule is about being organized while doing what you want in your everyday life (and not just more organizing!).

Case Study

Joseph wants to become more organized and realized he has some free time to do it. When he looked around at what needed to be done, he began to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. But he sat down and wrote a list of everything he wanted to accomplish. Once he had a long list, he decided to mark which ones had a higher priority than others. Still feeling swamped, Joseph went over the list again and divided then by the different projects he was working on and what would need to be done in each one. Finally, he marked which tasks he wanted to take care of first and ranked highest to him, and put the rest of them aside. Now that Joseph had lined out what he wanted to do, and in what order, he was ready to tackle his list of jobs and get organized.