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Prioritizing Tasks: A Simple Method for Efficient Business Growth

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prioritizing tasksPrioritizing tasks is absolutely essential for marketing, or any aspect of business really. There will always be a shiny new object staring you in the face. And even without new tasks popping up out of the blue, there is already plenty enough on you plate.

There can be so many different directions you can go that you end up doing nothing at all. Not very productive. So how do you go about deciding what to do next? How do you avoid getting sidetracked from doing the things that will actually help you get to the point you want to be?

You need to have an effective method of prioritizing your tasks. And I am about to give you one that disagrees with many “productivity experts.”

I’ve read a lot about how you should start each day with the most difficult task so that you can get it out of the way ASAP. This approach is fundamentally flawed. Why default to starting with the hardest task.

Personally, and maybe it’s just me being lazy, I want to do the tasks that are the easiest with the best results. I don’t want to do a task just because it is the hardest if it is only going to make a marginal difference.

Here is a simple task prioritization method you can do to keep yourself on track…

1. Define Your Goals

The usual first step with anything you do should be to figure out what you are trying to accomplish. What are your goals? Before you undertake any tasks at all, you should decide where you want those tasks to lead you.

Otherwise, why are you doing anything at all?

Are you trying to increase your email list subscriptions? Trying to increase sales conversions? Trying to drive traffic? There are plenty of options here…figure out what you want to focus on and what is most important to you at the moment (and in the long run).

2. List Your Tasks

To begin your task prioritization, make a list of all of the marketing tasks you have in mind. If you’re going to prioritize everything you want to do, you need to have it all in one place first.

I suggest starting an excel spreadsheet. Why? Because I am obsessed with it and do almost everything in excel (as you can tell from my content inventory). But beyond that, it’ll make the process of ordering your tasks much simpler.

If you are creating an Excel file like I suggested, you can list your tasks in Column A.

3. Assess Each Task’s Effectiveness 

The next thing you want to do is actually assess how much of an impact each task on your list is going to have on achieving the goals you have set. Give each task a rating from 1 to 10 – 1 being the most effective and 10 being the least effective.

For example, increasing your Twitter following probably won’t have much impact on your goal of increasing sales conversions. You certainly wouldn’t give this a rating 1.

List these ratings in Column B.

 4. Assess Each Task’s Complexity

Complexity in this case can mean a few things. But focus on how much investment in terms of time, money or human resources it will take to complete each task.

Again, give each task a rank from 1 to 10 – a rating of 1 for the simplest tasks and a rating of 10 for the most complex.

Something you can do by yourself in a matter of minutes will get a 1 rating, for example. Something that will take weeks to accomplish, or a large monetary investment, will get a lower rating.

And although I am usually here to talk about the effectiveness of content marketing, I am readily willing to admit that it takes more effort than some other tasks you may have on your list. For example, paid ads will give you results much quicker. However you have to pay. This is a tradeoff you have to to account for to see if it is right for your own business.

List these ratings in Column C.

 5. A Little Simple Arithmetic…

At this point you have assessed the effectiveness of each task you have on your list, as well as the complexity. What else do you really need in order to prioritize? Not much in my opinion.

Now, add together the ratings for both effectiveness and complexity for each task.

Next, divide this sum by 2.

This will give you a pretty simple average rating for each task on your list.

Do this calculation in Column D.

 6. Prioritize

You are now ready to prioritize your tasks.

If you took my advice and completed this exercise in Excel, all you have to do now is sort Column D in ascending order. The result is a list of tasks that are ordered from most effective and simplest to accomplish through least effective and most complex.

At this point I would completely cut out tasks at the bottom of the list. These are complex and don’t have much of a return on the investment. You can put them on the back burner. But really…why do them at all?

So what do you think? Easy enough method for prioritizing tasks? Can you use this simple approach to advance your business faster and more effectively? Try it out. And, if you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to sign up for updates by filling out the form below!

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10 Responses to Prioritizing Tasks: A Simple Method for Efficient Business Growth

  1. Chadrack says:

    Very insightful article indeed. Very clear and direct.Only question is, do you have to do this everyday or maybe set out a time frame?

    • Eugene says:

      Hi Chadrack,

      First of all, thanks! But getting to your question…I think you can do either or even both. If you have a long-term plan (which is always a good idea), you can plan out all of the tasks you need to complete to accomplish that goal. Then you can start refining those on a daily basis. It really all depends on the person and the situation. I think you should do whatever works for you. The concept is just to get the easiest and most effective tasks done ASAP – unlike what some of the productivity gurus tell you about doing the hardest things first.

  2. Glynis Jolly says:

    A fantastic post! Really. This is what I have been needing. I’ve been more or less going by what others have told me should be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd but haven’t been comfortable with it. Depending on the project and what the goals are for a person is going to determine ratings on an individual basis. Thank you.

    • Eugene says:

      My pleasure! I’m glad you found this useful. I think this is approach is very flexible and you can mold it to the needs of each individual, and each project. Plus it makes things a lot less daunting because you can do the thing that matter and aren’t necessarily the most difficult to accomplish (not that you can completely ignore those).

  3. Ralph says:

    Hey Eugene,

    Good tips. I am challenged with rating the tasks though. Inherently and because we are human we will likely rate certain “difficult” tasks and they may be fundamental to our growth. For example, I have a considerable challenge in public speaking and public speaking is a fundamental tool in building “real” engagement in my world. Maybe that’s a more strategic “goal” and doesn’t fit on a task list.

    If I address a list of tasks that regulary drive business then I totally agree that the tasks with the highest probability of moving your business forward should be where you focus your efforts.

    I suppose you need to keep your strategic intent in mind when rating tasks and maybe before we move forward we need a way to define difficulty in order not to lose focus on something that may be challenging but fundamentally necessry to our growth.

    I do like your system and will certainly give ot a go. It would be great to bring this concept back around in a few months to demonstrate its effectivemess.

    Thanks Eugene and Cheers!

    • Eugene says:

      Hi Ralph,

      You’re right. It can be pretty difficult to come up with a way to gauge difficulty. And what one person may see as difficult may not necessarily be the same for another individual. But as you say, you need to start with a strategy. As you can tell from the title of this blog…I’m quite fond of strategy :). And as I point out, you need to set your goals first.

      That is why I really like this approach, it takes into account both the difficulty of a task (however you define that for yourself) and its effectiveness. At the very least this allows you to eliminate difficult tasks that aren’t going to help you in any way. And it hopefully brings to the top the simpler tasks that are very effective.

      Is it perfect? Of course not. But I think it’s better than getting the hard tasks done first so they are out of the way as some people suggest. Why do something just because it’s difficult? That doesn’t make sense to me – it’s fundamentally flawed.

      Plus, I find a lot of motivation in small victories – so getting an easy task done successfully drives me to take on the next one (but that could be just me).

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Murray Lunn says:

    I like the addition of the ‘complexity’ – one thing that I rarely do on my own productivity spreadsheets.

    What I’ve found, by not having this kind of element, is that I wind up doing the easiest tasks first until I have a laundry list of complex tasks that seem to continually pile up.

    Nowadays, I’m trying to focus on just one or two main things to accomplish each week – big items – and push other things off as “dailies”.

    • Eugene says:

      But are the simple tasks effective in getting you towards your goals? If so, why not get the simple ones done. I don’t like how people say to do the hardest thing first because that’s fundamentally flawed – why do something just because it’s difficult? Plus, I find a lot of motivation in small victories – get something easy done successfully and it motivates me to keep going, it starts the momentum.

      But I do like the idea of breaking things up into long term goals and “dailies.” Do you break your big items down into smaller daily tasks?

      • Murray Lunn says:

        For the most part – yes.

        A lot of these smaller “dailies” are managereal tasks such as updating information and doing some daily writing but stickly doing so makes me skip over the bigger picture items such as building a list, writing premium guides, and more.

        However, I always make sure that these smaller tasks do, in some way, effect the overall strategy so not all is lost :)

        For the larger items, I generally do outlines first, gather resources second, then break them down into smaller chunks when I have free time away from school and the dailies.

        Things are slowly progressing but they’re getting there :)

  5. Jeevanjacobjohn says:

    Hey Eugene,

    I do prioritize, but I have never done it with effectiveness in my mind (I think I should add it to my list). Right now, networking and marketing are my priorities (driving more traffic with these methods), convince them to visit my blog and convert those visits into leads. I am off to create an excel file, like you said (I will experiment with it this week, and see how it works).

    Thanks for the suggestion!

    Jeevan

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