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Manage multiple priorities by revamping your ‘to do’ list

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Have you reached the point where your “to do” list is so long that you can’t decide which task to tackle first? Learning to manage competing priorities is a critical skill for small business owners. Use this four-step process to tackle tasks more effectively.

Step 1: Make a complete list of tasks on your plate. Don’t worry about order or importance yet. Leave space beside each item for notes.

Step 2: Rate each activity according to importance, using the following scale. To help narrow your focus, ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t do that task.

A – Very important (critical to essential goals)
B – Important (should be done)
C – Discretionary (not essential)
D – Unimportant (could be left undone)

Step 3: Rate each activity according to its urgency. Urgency relates to how long you can delay a task without causing problems or missing opportunities.

1 – Very urgent (must be done now)
2 – Urgent (must be done soon)
3 – Not urgent (long range)
4 – Time isn’t a factor

Step 4: Prioritize your activities. Rearrange your list in alphanumeric order: A1, A2, B1, B2, A3, etc. Prioritize letters first, because important items should be addressed before less important—but more urgent—tasks. Some tasks may have the same letter-number designation. That’s OK. Simply evaluate those items again to determine their respective priorities. Review which of the less-important and less-urgent tasks you can delegate.

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