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Prioritizing Work to Support Your Wellbeing

Prioritizing your work can be a challenge in usual circumstances. But working remotely in the midst of a pandemic requires that we ruthlessly prioritize our work. Setting priorities will enable you to focus your attention, complete tasks and feel a sense of accomplishment. This is an important component to managing stress and caring for ourselves.

These resources may help you decide what is important, and where it makes sense to spend your time. While this information is useful for everyone, it’s especially important for leaders to take a proactive approach to identifying key deliverables for their teams.

The priority matrix

When we know which activities are most important and which are most urgent, we are more likely to clear enough time to do what's essential.

Important: An activity that will help you complete your goals
Urgent: Something that has a deadline attached to it

The Priority Matrix can help you focus on your deliverables and help you determine where energy is needed most. 

Do.

Do now

Urgent and important

  • Time-sensitive items and meetings
  • If ignored, results in big challenges
  • High impact
  • Too much time here can lead to burnout
Delegate.

Delegate or reject and explain

Urgent but not important

  • Unproductive/unnecessary meetings
  • Projects not in line with deliverables
  • ‘Autopilot’ information sharing (e.g., unmeaningful article forwards)
Plan.

Plan & Prevent

Important but not urgent

  • Crucial to long-term success:
    • e.g. Planning for the week ahead, goal setting, information management
  • Prevents crises
  • Reduce stress by increasing control
Eliminate.

Eliminate

Not urgent and not important

  • Procrastination
  • Avoidance
  • Busy work

A few questions to ask yourself to take action

Leaders

You and your team can't do it all:

  • Which projects address our core work and priorities? 
  • Which projects can we eliminate or de-prioritize?
  • Which projects will provide the most client value?  

Employees

Align your work with your leader's objectives by asking them:

  • Based on our team objectives, I plan to focus on A, B and C. What are your thoughts on this approach?
  • Based on our team objectives, I think that D and E are no longer high priorities. What do you think?

6 best practices to help you prioritize your work

1. Schedule strategic planning. Block a set time to close off each day and/or week (e.g., 10 minutes once a day, 20 - 30 minutes per week). Use this time to identify your top priorities for tomorrow or next week, and then block time in the coming days to work on them. 

2. Think ahead. In addition to identifying your top two to three priorities for the coming day/week, think about what strategic priorities you need to start working on now in order to meet longer-term objectives. You can chip away at these, a bit at a time. 

3. Start, stop, continue. During these challenging times, take a careful look at what you and your team should consider starting, stopping and continuing given the current circumstances.

4. Work with your energy levels. Plan to work on more demanding tasks when you are more energetic. Save less demanding tasks for your lower energy times.

5. Expect the unexpected. Things are always changing, and so your day or week won't always work out exactly as planned. Your plan can still act as a guide for when you’re able to focus again. 

6. Especially for leaders, practice delegating. Meeting-packed days are exhausting and don't allow time to work on strategic planning or address unexpected items. Consider how you might delegate certain tasks or meetings to others on your team to open up space for yourself. This may also be a way of giving your team members new experiences and exposure.  Be sure to provide the person with clear direction and follow up later.