How To Prioritize Your Tasks And Time
My least favorite period of my life was when I was working full-time and attending school part-time. It sucked. I had so much to do, so many things I wanted to do, but not nearly enough time to do it all.
But, I got a LOT done. Seriously. I wrote lesson plans, graded papers and wrote papers, read for class, went to the gym 3 times a week, and even was able to spend time with friends. In fact, after I graduated, I missed having all that structure. Ha!
I was able to accomplish so much because I prioritized all my tasks and events. What were my personal and professional priorities? What did I need to complete this week, next week, this month, next month to meet those priorities?
One of the hardest times students (of all ages!) have is prioritizing their tasks and time. There is so much calling us, but a finite amount of time to fit it in. So, how do you decide what to do right now or next week? What is most important and what can wait?
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How To Prioritize Your Tasks And Time
Decide what is most important to you
Grab a piece of paper or the Prioritizing Workbook. Start thinking about your priorities. As long as you are in school, it must be one of the most important. Do you need to stay healthy? Work a job? Play an instrument? Play on a team? Take care of siblings?
For example, my core commitments as a teenager were (in order) school, choir, and baking. (I ran a small baking side hustle in high school.) As an adult, it would be parenting, my job, exercise, and baking.
Keep in mind that your priorities will change as your schedule does. Playing a sport this season? Applying to college? Those will become priorities and something else will have to become less important. (Hint: That shouldn’t be school.)
Prioritize Your Tasks
There are lots of ways to do this, but I recommend using an Eisenhower Model. It’s a simple chart that you can use from week to week to organize your priorities and to-do list. (Psst – grab it in the Prioritizing Workbook, print it out, and use it each week!)
You can see that events are placed according to their urgency and importance. This will help you spend the most time on those things that are important and need to be completed this week!
Grab some small sticky notes and individually write all (and I do mean all) your planned events, appointments, and “to-dos” on those sticky notes. Include a due date or event date for each item.
Place the sticky notes into the quadrant of the chart they belong. Here are some questions to consider when deciding WHERE to place a sticky note.
- How does this event/ assignment/ etc. relate to my priorities?
- Must I complete this right now?
- Would it be nice to finish this?
- Can someone else assist me?
- Is this really necessary?
Are all the sticky notes in the “Do It Now” quadrant? Then you need to rethink your priorities for the week. Look back to your prioritizing worksheet and the activities and/ or groups you selected as the most important. Rearrange as necessary.
One of the hardest lessons I learned was to say no to some events, usually fun ones with friends. There were certain seasons when my other priorities (work and school) took up all my time. Bye-bye brunch with friends and hello weekly reading. But I knew that other times of the year were flexible and I tried to schedule more fun time then.
Get your planner and place all the items on your chart on your planner for the week. If you don’t write it down, it won’t happen. Period.
This is when the Academic Planner from Order Out of Chaos comes in REAL handy. It includes an “after hours” calendar for all the time you have outside of class. That’s the time you will actually schedule all the stuff from your Prioritizing Worksheet.
Or you can grab this FREE download from me! I included a planning worksheet, Eisenhower model, and a weekly calendar for you!
Try out this method for a few weeks and see if it works for you. You might need to make some tweaks along the way – that’s completely OK!