Steps to Prioritize Tasks and Meet Project Deadlines at Work
Have you ever heard of the famous Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands to fill time?” Even if you haven’t, you must have experienced its practical implications in real life.
You start your day with the intention of being productive, but the entire day you’re just scrambling or rushing into almost nothing!
Multiple urgent requests, unending calls, and unmatched deadlines- are these the new normal?
If all of these things sound normal, then you’re not alone. Many of us don’t have a proper way of prioritizing tasks and are always catching-up on one thing or another. Specifically, for project managers, the ability to prioritize tasks is the maker or breaker of the situation.
Stay ahead in the game and prioritize your tasks with this step-by-step guide of meeting deadlines.
But, first thing first!
What is a priority?
A task that is considered of higher relevance than others is called a priority. For instance, meeting the deadline is usually prioritized rather than responding to a non-related work messages from a colleague. Managers typically come across prioritization problems on a daily basis. There are many tools available out there for prioritization, but usually, it is the discretion of the person that does the real job.
Why can’t a Team Meet Project Deadlines?
Meeting deadlines is essential, but many times, a team can’t accomplish the tasks on time, and there are various reasons for it-
- Undefined goals and priorities are the ice-breakers. Any project whose requirements aren’t clearly stated or the priorities not appropriately defined is bound to see the face of failure.
- Communication is the key to success, regardless of the aspect we are dealing with. When requirements aren’t conveyed to the team effectively, or the people can’t communicate properly, the project is bound to derail.
- People skills are another vital aspect of project management. Provide upskill training to your team and facilitate conversations with them in real-time.
- Some of your company’s processes are in place because they are flawless and stood the test of time. But some other procedures may be outdated, and they need to be spotted before they cause serious harm to your project.
How to Prioritize tasks for meeting project deadlines?
Start with the Creation of Task List
A very obvious step- create a list of tasks that are to be accomplished for project completion if there are multiple tasks involved. Yes, you can add as many as you want as the project unfolds, but to start with- have an outline. If some of these tasks are too complex, then consider dividing them into sub-tasks, but all of this doesn’t have to be necessarily done in the first stage itself; only the essentials would do!
Adopt a Prioritization Methodology
How you are eventually going to prioritize your tasks largely depends on your working style and the nature of the job! However, there are specific prioritization techniques available that can ease your situation, one of which we recommend is – MoScoW Technique.
It is a prioritization methodology that is massively utilized in business analysis, management, and software development by stakeholders to evaluate every requirement’s importance.
Often utilized with timeboxing, the technique is parted into four priority groups for enabling the associates to prioritize requirements collaboratively.
MUST (Must Have)
This group represents the mandatory, or say non-negotiable needs of the project. These steps must be essentially completed for the teams to be successful.
SHOULD (Should Have)
It contains all the essentials for the long run; these steps are essential for the project but not at the moment. If left out, for now, they would have a little impact on the project completion.
COULD (Could Have)
This is the group of nice-to-have, but not-so-essential initiatives for the project. Even if they are not taken into account, the team would still function.
WOULD (Would Have)
Comprises of non-essentials, and is also not a priority at the moment steps. The project completion would have little or no effect, even if they are skipped.
Try determining your Most Productive Hours
Boost your productivity by determining your most energetic hours. We are human beings, and we all traverse through our productivity cycle (natural highs and lows). In simple words, there are the times we feel most productive, and those are the best hours for scheduling our highest priorities.
You can also avail tools such as RescueTime for finding your best-possible hours based on past trends.
Don’t forget to Update your Colleagues Regularly
Updating your colleagues and upper-management about your work is another crucial step. When the whole team is on the same page, it becomes easier to prioritize and understand what’s working and what’s not. If somebody is facing some backlog and some other person can contribute to resolving the issue- it will only speed up the task completion process. Daily standups, email updates, weekly reports, once-in-a-while calls are some of the methods to accomplish the same.
Say “No” to the Unproductive Meetings
Meetings are essential, but not as important as the tasks themselves. Make sure you only attend the most-necessary of them. Reduce the extra churn by getting rid of lengthy and not-so-productive calls. Have the meeting agenda in-hand before you decide to call everybody on board!
Tired of Meetings Madness? Here is the step-by-step guide for running Effective Meetings.
Distancing your Distractions is important
The era of technology has given us too many distractions. Be it mobiles, cameras, Tablets, apps like Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, or something else. We are constantly interrupted by one thing or another- then how amidst all this one can concentrate on the task at hand?
Put away all the devices, shut notifications from not-so-important applications, don’t check your mailbox every 10 mins, and focus on the work. Though it looks like a difficult thing to accomplish, you can lure yourself with breaks after every 50 minutes of uninterrupted working. Once you learn the art, it would be easier to get your job done quickly.
Don’t forget to set Break Timings
Though it may look like a very obvious and highly practiced ritual, yet out of our duty to pen the most essentials for accomplishing work- we have enlisted it. Breaks are important. Anything more than 45-50 minutes is just torture on your body. Already tired, take a break. Have naps, go for 10 minutes short walks, or maybe do my favorite one- grab some munchies, but never skip the relevance of these short “Me-Timings.”
The rule is 50-10; after every 50 minutes, take a 10 minutes break!
Remember you’re a Human, so Be Realistic
There is nothing wrong with being ambitious, but never try to be this “Mr/ Mrs. Perfectionist.” The opposite of good is rarely bad, but perfection. You can’t get everything on your list- remember this. Unrealistic goals would only kill your energy.
So, learn to include attainable tasks and regularly assess with your team to find out whether you need to reconsider. Take a deep breath, focus on what can be achieved in a day, and get your hands in the pit. Once you’re done putting the max, you could step out and rest.
Leverage a Task Management Software
A task management software helps in streamlining all your tasks via a single platform. Get a Cloud-based Task Management Solution and track all your tasks related to Operations, HR, Invoicing, Marketing, or something else.
Assign, Prioritize, Track, Schedule, Collaborate, and do much more with a robust application.
It is Completely Fine to Say No!
Unless you think of yourself as Superhuman, just know you’re going to fall short. Hence, learn to say No!
No is not just a word but a complete sentence. You can’t do everything- so deny what you can’t, be it an additional task, colleague work, off-timings meeting, or something else.
Don’t say yes to anything that you can’t afford. Time is a limited resource. So, get that perfectionist tag off from yourself and only fill your bucket with those tasks that you can comfortably accomplish. Also, to ease the work, learn the art of delegating tasks to your team members for meeting deadlines.
Still, fell short? Listen, It’s Okay!
So, even after following all the above steps, or maybe say the majority of them, you couldn’t meet the deadline!
- JUST KNOW, IT IS OKAY!!!!!!
- Apologize for the missed deadline.
- Throw a warning early on about the possible delays
- Request for a deadline Extension
- Seek Help- Colleagues, Managers, whatever suits.
- Turn around the work quickly and implement changes.
- Have a Mitigation Plan Ready
- & most importantly- Learn from Mistakes!!
Missing the Deadline, or maybe the accomplished ones, is important, but nothing is more important than your health and peace.
It’s essential to be working and hustling, but it’s also important to know when to grab a warm cup of coffee and enjoy it.
Not because you’re careless, but you need it!
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