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Principles for Prioritizing, Part II: Unimportant Tasks

Strategies and goals

This is the second article in a short series on prioritizing. The first article in the series, “Principles for Prioritizing, Part I: Moving Targets,” appeared Monday, and includes links to other articles on the site about organizing and prioritizing.

Less important tasks may need to be dropped
When prioritizing tasks, we’re always dealing with at least two variables: how important something is and when it needs to be done. Do we do the immediate, less important thing or start working on the longer-term, more important thing instead? There’s no easy answer to this, but there are some ways to figure it out.

Of course important tasks that need to be done soon should take priority, and unimportant tasks that aren’t needed right away should be bumped to the end of your list–which for many of us may mean (sadly) that there will be no time for them. But of those other two possibilities–more important but less pressing and less important but more pressing–the decisions become more difficult. If you find that you are generally getting important things done on time without your life going haywire at all, you can probably afford to do the more urgent but less important tasks some of the time. But if you find that important, long-term things are often not getting done, not getting done well, or not getting done until the last minute, then what generally needs to happen is for some of those short-term but less important items to be dropped entirely from your task list so that you can get the more important things done.

For example, if you have a choice of working on some tax paperwork that’s due next week and reading a book for your book club meeting tomorrow, and if you find you often have trouble getting things like that tax paperwork done on time, then it’s probably time to take a hiatus from the book club.

To put it another way: effective prioritization often means giving up on less important tasks.

Photo by gingerpig2000

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