Prioritising in the Workplace

Good time management results in tasks being completed on time. Tasks are inter-related within projects, so your colleagues may not be able to start or complete their tasks until you have completed yours. Your colleagues therefore rely on you to complete tasks on time or to give them sufficient warning if a deadline is at risk of not being met. This will enable them to plan their own workload accordingly. Tasks are negotiated so the best person is allocated to each task to speed up completion times; everybody supports each other so all work is completed on time.

In assessing and prioritising your workload, you increase your ability to reach KPI’s, contribute to the smooth running of your part of the business and reduce stress on yourself by not leaving everything to the last minute. If you are working with others it is important to communicate clearly to enable each person to be fully aware of what they are required to do so tasks are not replicated, therefore saving time and resources.

At times you many need to seek assistance from supervisors or colleagues to ensure your work is completed within timelines required. It is important to acknowledge when a task is beyond your current capability as this enables work to be handed over to someone with greater expertise. In a good team, they will be happy to show you what to do and may even become a mentor to you, allowing you to learn in a positive and supportive environment which will make you a more valuable member of the team.

Assessing the workflow depends on your ability to manage time effectively and understand the various roles each team member plays. Good negotiation skills allow you to hold a mutual discussion involving the completion of tasks, including who should be responsible for what task and how the task should be completed. Good communication will ensure everyone fully understands what is expected of them and gives employees the opportunity to ask questions for clarification of tasks. Be prepared to continually monitor and re-estimate timelines if need be.

When you have a range of competing demands on your time, you may find that you try to complete more than one task at a time. However, this may result in all of the tasks being done to a lower quality than you would have achieved otherwise. Prioritising is the ordering of tasks from most important/urgent to least important/urgent. You can prioritise work according to a number of different measures.

At the very least you should regularly generate To Do lists – daily, weekly and monthly versions. You could then prioritise the items in each list with categories – e.g. label high priority tasks that need to be done immediately with an A, those that need to be done by a particular time with a B, those that worthwhile doing but that don’t need to be done now or that could be delegated as a C while those that could be left be delegated as a D. This labelling will allow you to more easily plan to meet your KPI’s.

Stephen Covey (who wrote ‘The Sevencoveys Habits of Highly Efficient People’) came up with the diagram on the left to help you determine a task’s importance. Obviously, those tasks that you list in the top left cell need to be done immediately while those in the 4th quadrant at the lower right can be left out completely. This focus on weighing both importance and urgency can be a valuable way of determining your priorities.

In every work environment you will need to cope with changes and interruptions. Your prioritising and time allocation to these priorities will need to allow for these contingencies. Consult your workmates, work as a team and maintain your awareness that you need to be flexible so that you don’t get too stressed and lose sight of your goals that need to be met.

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