How to Prioritize Your Never-Ending To-Do List

By Callie Walker of MemberClicks

Do you ever get so overwhelmed with work that you start to feel paralyzed? The to-dos keep coming, and you don’t even know where to begin. It’s ALL important, and it all HAS to get done. If so, you’re certainly not alone. Even if you’re an extremely organized person, it can be hard to determine what tasks to tackle first.If your to-do list is no longer cutting it, and prioritization is starting to become an issue, try this alternative approach to time and project management:

The Eisenhower Matrix 

Have you ever heard of the Eisenhower Matrix? (If you’re wondering if it was named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, it was!) 

Basically, it’s a method of prioritizing tasks based on urgency and importance. (President Eisenhower had a lot going surprise there. This was his way of identifying what to tackle first.) 

Here’s how it works:

  • First, draw a four-square quadrant
  • Beside the top left box, write “Important”
  • Beside the bottom left box, write “Not important”
  • Above the top left box, write “Urgent”
  • Above the top right box, write “Not urgent”

That will then leave you with the following four boxes:

  1. (Top left) Urgent and important 
  2. (Top right) Important, but not urgent 
  3. (Bottom left) Urgent, but not important
  4. (Bottom right) Neither urgent nor important 

Now here’s what you do…Take your to-do list and start placing each task in the appropriate box. Maybe you need to email your boss back to confirm something. Since your confirmation is needed for next steps and it’s your boss we’re talking about, that task would go in the top left box: urgent and important. 

Or, let’s say there’s a meeting taking place where attendance is encouraged, but not required. Since the meeting has already been scheduled, that’s a task that would be considered urgent (you can’t plan to attend tomorrow if it’s taking place today), but not important (it’s not mandatory, after all). So, that task would belong in the bottom left box: urgent, but not important. 

Note: When doing this, it’s critical to be honest with yourself about what’s really urgent and what’s really important. Not everything has to get done (or can get done, for that matter) right this very second. Just remember that. 

Ok, now this is where the Eisenhower Matrix becomes REALLY helpful. Once all of your tasks have a home on the quadrant, here’s how you should handle them: 

  • The tasks that are in the top left box — the tasks that are urgent and important — are the tasks you should tackle first. Those need to get done ASAP.
  • The tasks that are in the top right box — the tasks that are important, but not urgent — are the tasks you should schedule to do later. Go ahead and put some time on the calendar so you don’t forget, or more likely, get pulled in a different direction.
  • The tasks in the bottom left box — the tasks that are urgent, but not important — are the tasks you should try to delegate, if possible. They need to get done, but you don’t necessarily have to be the one to do them. Is there anyone else on your team who has some extra bandwidth?
  • The tasks in the bottom right box — the tasks that are neither urgent nor important — are the tasks you should drop from your to-do list altogether. You may want to add them to a separate “Wish List” of tasks you’d like to do if and when time permits (just so you don’t forget), but right now, all they’re doing is causing you added stress. 

Even if you’re still feeling overwhelmed with everything you have to do, a system like this will at least help you determine where to begin. 

Now let’s say you’re trying this method and STILL drowning. Everything seems to be falling in the top left box! If that’s the case, you may want to look at a membership management system to lighten the load. A membership management system could streamline a lot of your tasks, giving you more time to focus on those urgent and important to-dos. 

Want to know more about what a membership management system is and how it could not only help you and your staff, but improve the member experience? Check out our free guide below! 

What Is an AMS? What exactly is an association management system? Download this guide

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