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6 steps to prioritise work effectively as a leader

by Maria Onzain

One of the key leadership skills most employees are striving for is the capacity to prioritise work effectively. A good way to achieve this is by learning from a top leader and then putting this into practice yourself. You can also sign up to Open Colleges’ management courses, to build upon your current knowledge and grow as a leader. But to help you get started right now, we have put together a simple 6 steps framework to help you prioritise work when everything seems like it’s number one:

1. Create a comprehensive list

You may want to start by creating a list of everything that needs to be done to complete the project. Try to break items down into smaller, more manageable tasks. You don’t need to worry about the number of items or the order for now, as you will go back to their importance later.

If you are unsure about anything, talk to the relevant members of the team to check your list covers every task. At this stage, you will also want to get an idea of the resources you will need, including how much time each job requires and how many people will be involved.

2. Assess the value of each task

Once you have completed your list, you want to go deeper into the value of each task. To do so, we recommend numbering each task on your list with either a ‘1’ or a ‘2’, with one being very important and two less so.  To do this accurately, ask yourself some key questions such as:

  • What impact will this task have on my team goals and business objectives?
  • How many people are involved in delivering this task?
  • How many resources will we need?

3. Differentiate between urgent and important

It is a widespread mistake to mix up what is urgent and what is important. To avoid the confusion, you should go through the value you have given to each task (either ‘1’ or ‘2’) and understand if you assessed that value because of its importance or its urgency. A good practice is to write down either an ‘I’ for important or a ‘U’ for urgent, next to the number you used to assess the value.

4. Create a prioritisation matrix

Once you have the complete list, you can create a 2×2 matrix to better visualise your priorities and to decide how to proceed. Label the top quadrants with a ‘1’ (for tasks with a high value) and the lower quadrants a ‘2’ (tasks with a lower value). Next, label the left quadrants with a ‘U’ (items which are urgent) and the right quadrants with an ‘I’ (tasks that are not very time-sensitive but are essential for the business).

Now fill out the matrix with the tasks from your list. It should look something like this:

  • On the top left quadrant, you will see the tasks marked with 1 and U.
  • On the top right quadrant, you will have the tasks marked with 1 and I.
  • On the bottom left quadrant, you will have the tasks marked with 2 and U.
  • On the bottom right quadrant, you will have the tasks marked with 2 and I.

You can now begin to prioritise your tasks by working through them starting from the top left quadrant and continuing clockwise.

5. Communicate effectively with the team

It is so easy to get caught up in your own to-do-list and forget to communicate with the rest of the group. An excellent way to prevent this is by running a meeting where you outline to each member of the team what they should be working on.

Follow this up with daily morning catch-ups. As part of this, get everyone to explain what they are working on during the day. This is a great way to make sure everyone is focused on the priority tasks and it’s a brilliant opportunity to make any changes in their schedules if necessary.

6. Be adaptive

Even if you plan every detail of your team’s work, you will need to be prepared to find different kinds of contingencies along the way. Priorities and tasks will evolve as you go along and as a team leader, you will need to be able to accommodate the changes into your team’s schedule.

These six steps are a great way to arrange your team’s job and prioritise work as a leader. But if you want to acquire all the knowledge you need to become a top leader, make sure you check out Open Colleges courses in BSB51918 Diploma of Leadership and Management, BSB42015 Certificate IV in Leadership and Management and BSB42015 Certificate IV in Leadership and Management.

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