The Best Technique for Managing Your Workload

Question: How manageable do you find your workload? And, how would you rate your productivity level right now as a result?

This week on Episode 136 of the podcast, we’re tackling a host of what I like to call #productivityfails, most of which are commonly attributed to a lot of the so-called productivity “hacks and tricks” circulating the Internet.

While we dive into just two of the most common productivity hacks and tricks that I’ve come across—the Pomodoro technique and the tried and tested, ever-common “to-do list”—on the episode this week…

I thought it might be helpful to take a step back from that conversation and transition our focus to the opposite idea, which is how we can truly start to manage our time and our workload for the better—no mastering of hacks or tricks needed!

After all, couldn’t we all benefit from the use of a great technique that will not only promise easier management of our workload, but that will actually deliver what it promises too?

So, without further ado, let’s take a peek at what I consider to be the absolute BEST technique out there when it comes to staying on top of your work tasks and responsibilities, and everything in-between.

 

The Magic of the Priority List

Before we dive into the magic of the priority list and what it looks like, let’s take one step back to discuss exactly what the priority list is not… And that, my friends, is a “to-do” list!

And here’s why: Your traditional to-do list lacks one major, major thing in respect to all of the items that it has on it—which is any hint at levels of importance.

Because of that, we typically wind up with far too much on our list of things to do; things like doctor’s appointments, picking up mouthwash, scheduling someone to repair the plumbing at our house, creating a presentation for the executive board, and so on and so forth.

What this means is that we wind up with way too many items and not enough priority, which makes it super hard to distinguish what’s truly important versus what’s just trivial in the long-term scope of things.

Not only that but when it comes to those to-do lists, the majority of us tend to pick the easiest, quickest tasks to conquer first… just to feel like we’ve accomplished something.

And what this boils down to is the concept of quantity over quality, when what we should be focusing on instead of the concept of what’s important over what’s not important.

So, in the spirit of truly making an impact on our day, we must nip those traditional to-do lists in the bud… and start creating priority lists for ourselves instead.

What does the priority list look like, exactly? Let’s find out!

 

How to Arrange a Priority List

In a nutshell, a priority list is essentially a to-do list—but with intention. It’s geared in such a way that you’re thoughtfully putting items on your list so that you can truly make an impact on your day, and your life as a whole.

Now, for those of you who have been following the podcast from the beginning, you probably remember my mention of the priority list more than a few times before (because it works!).

But here’s the important thing to take away this week: I recently did a revamp of the priority list system that will help you manage your workload and other responsibilities with even more ease.

Here’s what the new and improved priority list looks like, and how you can use it to your advantage so that you can manage what you have on your plate.

 

The Three Priority Levels

 

ESCALATE–

When you take a peek at your workload and start to plug tasks in on your priority list, the items that fall under the Escalate category are those that may have an imminent deadline, for example, or that may require you to work quickly (say, like when you need to update changes to a project). Basically, these are your time-sensitive items.

Taking that one step further, these are the tasks that you want to spend some of your time on due to their urgency—but not all of it, because they mandate that you’re working from an urgent, defensive place…

And when we’re working in that spot (otherwise called our reactive mode), we’re not able to take the time to truly focus on quality—which becomes a problem in terms of our long-term goals!

 

CULTIVATE–

While tasks that fall under the Escalate category are considered your most immediate items, those that fall under the Cultivate category are those that are considered not urgent. While they still may hold importance in terms of your workload, they don’t require you to work quickly because they don’t have a looming deadline (i.e. the deadline is far away!).

Items on this part of your list should become the main focus of your day because they are the tasks that are going to move you towards your goals or fulfill your mission and purpose.

Your long-term projects, like creating a business plan, for example, fall under this category. They are those important items that require you to spend focused time, allowing you to do your best work and to think of creative solutions that will guide you in seeing them to fruition.

 

ACCOMMODATE–

The last category on the priority list is Accommodate, and this is where you want to spend the least amount of your time.

Tasks that fall under this category are those that don’t hold much significance in terms of your day-to-day at the office. Things like checking your email every ten minutes, returning phone messages at the drop of a hat, and so on and so forth.

In other words, these are the items that you may be able to delegate to another member of your team, or that you could batch together or find an appropriate time block during your weekly schedule to accommodate!

 

The Results

Now that we’ve talked about the different categories that the priority list features, let me break down exactly what the priority list can do for you in the long-run when it comes to managing your workload…

To be frank, the priority list will banish your busyness and remove any serious bouts of overwhelm that you may experience from your day-to-day for good.

The priority list will tell you exactly where to start when it comes to your workload (i.e. no more never-ending to-do list full of mundane items that are all over the place!), because when you have those three levels of escalate, cultivate, and accommodate and you write your tasks under the correct heading, you’ll have a game plan in place before you even dive in to your day!

Items that fall under accommodate, that you may have paid far too much attention to every day at work in the past, will suddenly be at the bottom of your list—opening you up to focus first on your escalating tasks, and then on those under your cultivate category that requires your best work!

In essence, the priority list will become the guide that you need each day to help you through, so that when your head hits the pillow long after you’ve clocked out at the end of your day… you’re able to feel that true sense of satisfaction (and success) that we all strive for—instead of the dread and stress over the morning ahead.

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So now my question to you is, what could possibly be better than that?

How have you been managing your workload over your weeks spent at the office? Share some things that have worked well for you in the past (and what hasn’t!) in the comments below…

And tune in to Episode 136 of Productivity Paradox to learn even more about why to-do lists just don’t work, and how you can transform the way that you approach your workload, personal responsibilities and more WITHOUT the use of any of those tired productivity hacks or tricks at all!

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton