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Why Prioritize Urgent Matters over Important Ones

Ma. Evinia C. Galera 20.09.2012

Picture this. It is a typical workday and you are seated at your desk. On one side of the table, you have a stack of documents you need to review for an upcoming presentation with the executive clients from the Philippines. Your computer screen, on the other side, shows an excel sheet with data you’ve searched and analyzed for a report due soon. You need to finish these tasks on time. However, you cannot seem to choose which one you need to focus on at this precise time. You start feeling anxious and dismissing everything as a distraction.

How can you produce exemplary results and still beat the deadline? Below are some pieces of advice that may help you work more effectively and efficiently towards the completion of tasks within a time limitation.


1.                  Plan, Don’t Cram

At work as in life, you see people generally rushing through tasks just to get these over with, unmindful that they are sacrificing the quality of their performance. However, hurriedly finishing an assignment which is due soon does not really give them the chance to process all relevant ideas nor the leeway to meticulously review the first draft. With any given assignment, it is wise to remember that planning, or a methodical approach, is better than cramming which is doing tasks frantically at the last minute.

·                     Acquire a planning aid. When you have a number of tasks to do, it would be best to visually map everything out. Use a planner, a computer grid, or even just a notepad on which you can record major activities and corresponding tasks.

·                     Make a List. Write down detailed assignments that you have to work on. Outline your specific approaches to the completion of an assignment.

·                     Mark deadlines. For every project, take note of the final deadline. Break down major activities into smaller tasks and set target dates for each stage to monitor progress.


2.      Prioritize

After an initial enumeration of all your tasks, you should determine which ones have to be prioritized and which ones can wait. When faced with this dilemma, you must first understand the difference between urgency and importance. The distinction lies in their time frame and source.

·                                             Identify important and urgent tasks.  According to the Mind Tools website, an important task is work that you designate for yourself in order to achieve your long-term goal. On the other hand, an urgent task is an assignment, which may be given by another person that needs to be done immediately to meet a short-term goal.

·                     Manage your time. After determining the urgency or importance of each task, you have to decide how much time you need to devote to each activity every day. Time allocation is dependent on how tasks are delineated in the context of set objectives and how much effort they require.


3.                  Take deadlines seriously

Refer to your calendar so that you can track the number of days you have to work on a project. Remember to monitor progress vis-à-vis the final deadline of each assignment and the specific target dates for every stage. When the deadline is near, you must already be at the stage where you are almost done creating your final draft. All that is left for you to do should be a last revision for improvement.

Even if possible, do not extend the deadline of assignments.  Inability to meet target dates could lessen your credibility and damage your reputation. Delivering good quality work on time is a hallmark of professionalism.

By following these advice, to produce commendable results and still beat the deadline are doable. Proactively, you become a master of your working hours and a liberated slave of the office clock.


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