How Can Lists Help You Prioritize Work?

Julie Shenkman
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To-do lists help you separate actionable tasks from conceptual goals so you can efficiently allocate your time. Focus on what needs to happen now, and avoid getting distracted by minor duties that aren't urgent.

Whether you use a daily or weekly plan, drafting a priority list in advance lets you start each day with purpose and spend less time trying to get organized. Lists are only useful if they identify which tasks are most productive, so use them to weigh the benefits, restrictions and consequences of different duties.

Start by prioritizing the tasks you have to complete today, and outline the mini goals you must hit to finish each job. Compare the benefits and consequences associated with each job. For example, you may want to prioritize a report that puts your team ahead of schedule and gives your boss more time to make an informed decision. However, if you don't have access to all the information or tools you need to satisfy a specific task, you waste unnecessary time by lingering on it without making progress.

Use time estimations to divide your list into manageable portions, and tackle your biggest jobs when you're most energized. Further refine your list by determining which tasks require your expertise and which tasks you can delegate. It's easy to fill up your day with short, mundane actions to make yourself feel more productive, but you make greater progress by saving these tasks to fill in time gaps between high-priority jobs.

Lists make it easier to spot jobs that are frequently postponed or left unfinished. Ask yourself what is restricting you from completing the task so you can re-evaluate its importance and decide whether it should be on your list at all.

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