How To Prioritize When You Have So Many Tasks

Everyone alive today has more to do than time to do it in. So how to ensure that what needs to be done is, in fact, completed? And how to prioritize tasks to increase the odds that you’re working on what matters most?

I recommend using a Productivity System to determine which tasks take priority.  Productivity Systems are practices and methodologies that help us get things done more efficiently and effectively. The best productivity systems are structured yet flexible, not overly complex, and easy to implement.  Using a productivity system can lead to better prioritization and make it easier to meet your most important goals. 

Below are 3 Productivity Systems that can help enable better task prioritization.

The 4D System

Originally proposed in the book The Power of Focus, written by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt, The 4D System distinguishes highly important tasks from those that are less vital.

The 4 D System consists of four categories: Do, Defer/Delay, Delegate, and Delete. Place tasks or projects into one of these categories based on importance and go from there.

The 4-Quadrant Matrix

Created by Steven Covey, this matrix helps prioritize tasks for optimal efficiency.

Tasks are divided into four quadrants: Important & Urgent, Important & Not Urgent, Not Important & Urgent, and Not Important & Not Urgent. The goal with this matrix is to spend most of our efforts on Important tasks and leave the unimportant tasks to others, or delete them entirely.  In an ideal world, we’d spend most of our time on Important but not Urgent tasks (Quadrant 2) and as little time as possible in Quadrant 4 (Neither Important nor Urgent). The remaining ~20-25% of our time might be spent in Quadrants 1 (Important & Urgent) & 3 (Not Important & Urgent.)

Created by Steven Covey

The Eisenhower Matrix

This is one of my favorite time management tools. The Eisenhower Matrix was established by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States. Eisenhower was a time management guru before the field existed. The Eisenhower Matrix prioritizes Important tasks over Unimportant tasks. The Eisenhower Matrix can serve as a guide in determining what to work on when there are just too many things to do.

Established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Although there are many similarities among these three prioritization systems, there are also differences. Consider experimenting with these systems and then choosing the one that works best for you.

If you would like to learn more about productivity, click here to get your free ebook, “Nine Common Efficiency Mistakes and How to Fix Them.” Or, contact Lisa Mark, C.P.O. to find out if she is a good fit for your organizing and productivity needs.

4 Tools That Help Free Up Time for Entrepreneurs

Most people alive today have more things to do than time to complete them. This month’s guest blogger, Ashley Taylor, discusses how a few widely available tools can help entrepreneurs be more productive.

Entrepreneurs are busy! There is always so much to do, including networking events, investor pitches, team meetings and actual work. If you’re overwhelmed by the workload, it’s time to start working smart instead of hard. Below are 4 resources which may help to streamline business tasks, improve productivity, and create downtime.

Social Media Management Tools

Regardless of the industry you’re in, Hookle notes that social media plays a major role in business success. Managing social media accounts individually is a cumbersome and ineffective process, and collating performance reports from different social media accounts involves additional time which may be better spent elsewhere.

A social media management tool can provide a unified solution for all social media accounts, including scheduling posts, generating performance reports, and making on demand changes.

Cloud Storage

As reported by Indeed, while email has long been the preferred mode of communication for businesses, it is not always the best solution for sharing information. If multiple teams are collaborating on a project, it is easy for important information to be lost

Utilizing cloud storage applications allows for documents to be stored in a central location accessible to everyone. This makes it easier to track project progress, provide feedback, update as needed, and access information.

Project Management Software

According to Martech, using a project management tool allows you to create projects, assign relevant stakeholders and track progress all in one place. Project management tools can allow users to create project boards which can be further divided into individual tasks, enabling up-to-the-minute status tracking and more relevant business decisions.

Additionally, as many of these tools are cloud-based, boards are shared among stakeholders on all teams, potentially reducing the need for team meetings to bring people up to date on the progress of a project.

Invoicing Software

Manually sending invoices to clients increases the chances of delayed or missed payments. Additionally, as the client base grows, it may become increasingly difficult to track payments. Invoicing software allows you to automate the invoicing process. Invoicing software allows you to set customized billing reminders for each client.

When it comes to communicating with new clients, an invoice can be a unique way to develop brand awareness. Invoicing software can make invoicing clients easier by automating the billing process. There are many customizable templates available to streamline the process.

One of the keys to success for entrepreneurs is to be judicious with time. Incorporating these four tools in your business may improve cross-team collaboration, make supervision easy and significantly increase the time you can dedicate to other more important business activities.

Ashley Taylor is a disabled mother of two energetic children. Ashley runs DisabledParents.org, a website dedicated to providing resources for disabled parents.

The Time Butler specializes in the design and implementation of organizing and productivity systems for corporate, small business, and residential clients. Contact us today for more information!

How To Create Task Zones for Office Efficiency

Many articles on creating office zones focus on zone usage for many people, such as collaboration zones to brainstorm with others, quiet zones for concentration, deep work zones for important project work, and private zones for breaks & non-business tasks.

Although it can be helpful to have these types of zones in a large office employing many people, this blog post talks about Task Zoning. Task zoning adds to productivity by establishing dedicated spaces within your own work area to get more done more effectively.

Effective Task Zones are deeply customized for each individual for optimum work performance. What works for one person may not work for another.

Below are the Task Zones that work for me.

  1. The ‘To Do’ Zone. This zone contains important work which needs to be completed. This includes both soft and hard copy items of tasks. Many of these tasks are administrative – bill pay, financials logging, tracking mileage, sending out contracts to potential clients, managing team projects, and managing email. Other examples of items in my ‘To Do’ Zone include upcoming project notes, important notes from colleagues, and a comprehensive To Do list. Because I’m only about 80% paperless, my ‘To Do’ zone includes information in hard copy along with the relevant soft copy documents, organized just enough, but not too much, according to how I use and retrieve them.

    My ‘To Do’ zone includes a hard copy of my To Do list, hard and soft copies of upcoming team projects, with dates, participating staff, and notes, and a Post It note with reminders of upcoming tasks that absolutely, positively, have to be done within the next week.

  2. The ‘Deep Work’ Zone. This zone enables the critically necessary deep work that keeps us in business – in my case, project items. While much of my work consists of items in the ‘To Do’ Zone, the ‘Deep Work’ zone is the work that makes up the most important part of business.

    My ‘Deep Work’ zone is almost completely dedicated to work projects. My work projects include Action Plans for current and potential clients, developing new products and services, implementing new business processes & creating new courses to teach colleagues and clients.

  3. The ‘When I Have Time’ or ‘Aspirational’ Zone. This zone is dedicated to long term projects that require a lot of time and effort. These are the things that should be done, and that would behoove me to do, but that require so much time and effort that I may never get to them. Because I don’t want to lose track of them, I keep them here.

    Items in my ‘Aspirational’ Zone include complex marketing strategies I’m thinking about implementing, engaging a video team to produce a marketing video of an organizing project, writing a book (who isn’t?), deep reading on new organizing topics and strategies for special populations with whom I’m not as familiar as I’d like to be, and obtaining additional industry certifications. These are all things I want to keep track of but do not currently have time to address. I may never have time to address these, but on the off chance I do, they are all in my ‘Aspirational’ Zone just waiting for my attention.

  4. The ‘Supplies’ Zone. This is a small but functional corner on the desk where often-used supplies are kept. I call these ‘fingertip’ supplies – I keep them at my fingertips so that they are available when needed. These can be replenished as necessary so you never run out.

    Examples of items kept in the ‘Supplies’ Zone: several pads of Post It notes in all colors, for on-the-spot note jotting, a large square of pull off notes with my business logo for on-the-spot bigger note jotting, pens and pencils, scissors, stapler, box of tissues, mobile phone stand for FaceTime calls, bowl of hard candies, water bottle, and my trusty laptop.

I find that dividing my desk space into these four zones aids my productivity by allowing me to track what needs to be done, and when, and with whom, whether it is a current project, administrative background work, or aspirational. You, too, can set up zones customized to your available space and how you work.

Lisa Mark, C.P.O. is a productivity expert and Certified Professional Organizer. Contact Lisa if you would like to find out if she is a good fit for your organizing or productivity needs.

3 Ways To Streamline Processes

A process is a series of repetitive activities or linked tasks which occur in a specific order and end when a service or product is provided to a client. Streamlining processes makes things simpler and more efficient and leads to improvement in operations. The benefits to streamlining processes include minimizing costs, diminishing or eliminating lost time, and reducing wasted resources. Streamlining can also lead to increased engagement, efficiency, and communication.

To streamline processes, start by doing the following:

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17 Apps for Tracking Time

When bringing tech into my business, I try to select tools that will enhance my productivity. Below are tips for choosing a time tracking app, along with options for time tracking apps that should lead to increased productivity.

When choosing a new app:

Use the KISS method. Kiss stands for ‘Keep It Simple, Sweetie.’ Ease of use is paramount with any new software. If I can’t determine how to use something within, say, the first 5 minutes, I’m not going to use it at all. So, bring in tech that is transparent, fun, easy to use, and keeps things simple for you and your team.

It’s not a bug…It’s a Feature! The more bells and whistles the software offers, the more difficult it can be to use. When possible, choose fewer, stronger features, rather than a whole host of ‘hey, that looks fun!’ Apps with fewer features enable ease of use, better streamlining, and a shorter (and flatter) learning curve. Definitely get what you need, but consider limiting extras.

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Easy Ways to Save Time

Home office organized by Lisa Mark, C.P.O.

Time Blocking

Identifying time-wasters is the first step to maximizing productivity. When thinking of daily tasks, ask if there is a way to clump, or group together, tasks that are similar. This strategy for doing similar things at one time is called time blocking.

From ToDoist.com: Time Blocking is a time management method that has you divide your day into blocks of time. Each block is dedicated to accomplishing a specific task, or group of similar tasks. Similar tasks may include:

  • Processing email
  • Scheduling client appointments
  • Attending meetings
  • Returning phone calls

Try using time blocking and see if it works for you.

Searching for Supplies

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How to Choose a Productivity App for Your Business

Because of the time and learning required to implement any new software, I tend to be a software minimalist. I do not want to spend time implementing and learning new software unless the benefits of doing so outweigh the investment of time and expertise I’ll need to put in. If what I have works well enough, I leave it alone.

This minimalism extends to my relationship with apps.

There is no such thing as the perfect app. App-savvy consumers may spend time on research, set up, and debugging, only to find that the new app is not all that much better than the old app was. Apps, like anything else, are only beneficial when they move us closer to our goals. And as with anything else, less is definitely more when it comes to apps.

I engage two processes when deciding whether to move forward with any type of upgrade, the ‘Questions’ process and the ‘Line in the Sand’ process.

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Learn How You Can Do More with The Resources You Already Have

Poor time management leads to accomplishing less with the same resources. Declining to set aside specific times to work on projects may result in unmet goals. Under these conditions, it is easy to spend the entire day responding to urgent items and be unable to find the time to complete more important items.

Solution: Identify & Pinpoint time expenditure.

  • Use a calendar to schedule deep-dive project time.
  • When possible, schedule other, less important tasks around brain-intensive project time.
  • ‘Chunk’ similar activities like processing email and returning phone calls.
  • Keep detailed records so you don’t have to search for important items after the fact.

The custom half-day schedule management tool below includes time frames for regular daily activities as well as planned deep-dive project time. Extra time is built in for unexpected occurrences – a meeting runs late, heavy traffic, or a task takes longer than expected.

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The Best Time of Day to Work on Urgent Projects

It’s happened to all of us: you sit down to address a high-priority project at the end of the day and find you don’t have the necessary brain power. The best time to address head-to-the-grindstone deep brain work is when you are at your best. This might be earlier in the day if you’re a morning person; later in the day if you’re not. To take advantage of your best times, schedule other commitments around them as much as possible.

To determine when you’re at your best, ask yourself these questions:

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Top Time Wasters: Meetings

If you’re like most people, you’ve spent time in at least one meeting that went on and on with no apparent purpose, without an agenda, with minimal or no follow through, and without resolution. You might even have wondered why you were there at all. Certainly, there were far better uses of your time.

Meetings can be a huge time waster if not done correctly. Good meeting preparation is essential for productive meetings.

Effective meetings consist of the following:

A Tight Agenda: Ensure you have an agenda, with time limits attached to each agenda item.

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