Prioritizing Work

Building on from the last post on Time Management this week I’m going to develop more on how to Prioritise. Improving my time management is an area that I have had to work on constantly myself both at work and at home. A well-structured workload to target your priorities is key to good time management and will increase your productivity.


  1. The to-do list. By having a proper list, everything in the one place it helps you to see all that you need to get done and allows you to start to identify the most important and most urgent. Trying to keep the list in your head will result in you getting distracted and wandering off to do non essential tasks. This is very easy to do with kids, from spending time playing with them to watching TV with them. If you have a list you’re more likely to remember that you have to pay the cable bill, or get out to the shop to buy chicken for dinner tonight.
  2. Review your workload regularly. It’s easy to procrastinate on some tasks or keep being over ran with urgent tasks which just have to be done. By reviewing your work you can ask yourself “Do I need to do this?” and answer 1. Does it really need to be done at all? Can I get someone else to do it? For example, I do the bulk of the laundry every week… but I have delegated some of it now. My daughter puts all her clothes away, and I’m introducing my son to pairing socks etc. I’ll get him to put his own clothes away next. I do the kids teeth at night, but I’ll let Aidan do his own in the morning.
  3. Remember the 80:20 rule of workloads. It’s very simple — 80 per cent of our work contributes to less than 20 per cent of its value. This suggests that by concentrating on the 20 percent which contributes you can make the biggest impact. So make a commitment of spending 20 percent of your time with your kids, doing something, anything with them. I walk my son home from school 2 or 3 days a week and spend time with him every evening with him reading him his story and saying prayers with him. I do need to spend more time with Aoife, but every few days I’d  chat to her in bed  when she’s settling down about her day, how things were going etc.
  4. Set realistic deadlines for your tasks. Lets be honest with each other, can we? You now have this long list of the things which you need to get done, and kids to look after and from experience we tend to deal with the people who make the most noise and look to get the most attention. So regardless what is on your list, and regardless of how urgent the tasks are, your kids are going to take a precedent and come first.  So you need to look at the to-do list and estimate the time you think it will take. Then at the very least double it. It’s much better to be completed a task early that be very late on it. Consider the example I used in the previous post. I leave 20 min to get the kids to school in the morning and 10 min to get them out of the house. I know it should only take me 10 min in total to get down there from the couch, but kids tend to throw timings out of whack.
  5. Allow time for interruptions. There are some things which you cannot avoid doing, collecting the kids from school for example, as much as you would just like to leave them there a bit longer, just that one day so you can enjoy the house finally tidied for 5 minutes or to finish watching that program on day time TV (if you’re that lucky) but you know you just have to do it. At these times only deal with urgent needs, dirty nappy, injured child etc. But once that urgent task is completed allow time for the interruptions. If you can when they come home from school,  indulge the kids a little with our time. If it is others, cold callers at your door or on the phone, ask them to call back at a time that suits.
  6. Structure your workload. Avoid picking up a job, doing a bit and then putting it back on the pile. This is one of my current failings, with kids and the family commitments sticking at one job until it is completed is a challange. This blog for instance was started on a Tuesday, more added to it on Wednesday afternoon (in 2 different sit down sessions) but I know won’t be completed till Wednesday evening  at the earliest. In a family environment it is difficult to focus on one sole task for a few hrs at a time. Besides you need time to think, however if possible it is better to structure your workload to focus on as few items as possible. So I’ve been interrupted by bed, the school runs and dinner. But I have stayed off Facebook or emails while completing so that I didn’t get distracted. I can do that later.
  7. Don’t let your inbox drive your workload. There was a time when interruptions were just limited to your work colleagues and phone calls in the office. At home it would have been the very odd phone call or visitor, or whatever your kids get up to. Now-a-days most of us have twitter, facebook, as well as the emails which are constantly coming in. If you have work to get done, or things to do with the kids,  LOG-OFF, pick a time of day to do these things. I utilise a bit of that slack time I allow for during the day. I check Facebook when I’m waiting in the car to pick up the kids from school, a lot of my social media perusal is done in the evenings when the kids are in bed or when the youngest has his nap in the morning over a cuppa tea. In other words I schedule my time to handle the interruptions, to ensure that everything else gets completed, at least that’s the theory.
  8. Fun, fun, fun. Its often more fun and easier to do the quick easy tasks on your to-do list. While this is grand and needs to be done it might often be better taking on the more challenging projects first, procrastinating on them will often make them bigger. For example it might seem easier to try and quickly get the baby to bed rather than spending a bit of time building a routine. For ages we decided to just let the baby fall asleep in my arms before putting him in bed. 2 kids down and I realise that it’s a dumb lazy option. On #3 I decided to get some organised routine, a few bits and pieces that happen every time regardless to give him that routine, and a little time spent doing that means that I now no longer have to lift a small child around for hours trying to get them asleep before putting them down.
  9. Keep multitasking to a minimum. There has been a running joke about women being able to multi task and men not being able to do it, suggesting that women are more effective at getting multiple things done. New current research has shown this to be a load of rubbish http://business.time.com/2013/04/17/dont-multitask-your-brain-will-thank-you/.In fact multitasking makes you more inefficient at all tasks. So focus on one task, play properly with the kids if that’s what you are supposed to be doing, not checking the TV or Facebook.
  10. Keep a log of your workload. Although it sounds like a chore, when you don’t know how long things take to do it is worth keeping a log. It will make scheduling your days and weeks easier, for example I now know it takes me around 22 minutes to take an easy run down to the kids school to collect them. So I can leave the house 30 min before they need picked up and run down to save me bringing the car and also get out for a bit of light excercise.

Adapted from: http://tinyurl.com/qbeyeec


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