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How to Prioritise

Everyone's got a ToDo list. But I've always found that a long list of things to do (or even a short one) still leaves you agonising over where to start. Typically we use one of these strategies:
  1. Pick off the easiest first
  2. Start with the one at the top and work down
  3. Look for the most urgent and start there
  4. Randomly plunge in and hope you can get them all done
  5. Delegate them and play golf (by far the best strategy, but during the round you'll think of twice as many items to replace them)
  6. Do the one that someone is shouting loudest at you to complete
All reasonable approaches perhaps, but I was taught a more logical way. It uses what's called a UI chart where you decide what's Urgent and what's Important. The method is beautifully simple and can best be performed in an adapted spreadsheet or perhaps on a whiteboard with post-it notes. It's a dynamic process needing regular reviews.

It works like this. Take each item on your To-Do list and place it in one of the four quadrants below according to its urgency and its importance:

The blue box, for 'Urgent and Important' things, is always going to get done first and needs to contain as few items as possible. 

Anything in the red 'Not Urgent, Not Important' box should be ignored forever, or at least until items in it are promoted to the Important side of the chart. 

The key to the whole method is to concentrate on the Important / Not Urgent green box. Do as many of these as possible before they become Urgent. The objective is to minimise the number of items which end up in the blue box and to distinguish between Important and Not Important activities. 

Always do green before orange unless they're quick and easy.

Pass it on.


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