Remote working has been increasingly prevalent in recent years. However, it has further accelerated during this pandemic.
The Owl Labs’ State of Remote Work 2021 report states that about 70% of full-time employees in the US have worked remotely. Many employers have begun adopting the hybrid work setup, meaning employees sometimes work from home and go to the office.
Most employees find remote work effective for boosting productivity. In fact, 90% of the employees working from home during the pandemic were more productive than when they were working in the office pre-pandemic.
It’s crucial, however, to make critical tasks a priority. However, it can be challenging to do so when working remotely. So how do you go about ensuring this?
Fret not — we’ve rounded up some task prioritization tips for you. Read further to learn why you should prioritize critical tasks and how to do so when working remotely.
Table of Contents
- The rise of remote work
- Importance of task prioritization
- How to prioritize critical tasks for remote work
The rise of remote work
Remote working has been around in recent times. Before the pandemic, only 16% of companies operated 100% remotely. While 44% didn’t offer remote work, 40% of them resorted to a hybrid work setup.
The pandemic, however, was a game-changer for the business realm. Companies and organizations worldwide declared a mandatory work-from-home (WFH) policy at the onset of the global health crisis.
The remote work setup has become favorable to many employees worldwide due to several potential benefits rather than drawbacks. However, some companies have started asking their employees to go back to the office now.
When asked if they want to return to the workplace, 84% of employees prefer to work remotely for good. It appears that remote working is redefining the future of the business landscape. To date, employers have been experimenting with the hybrid work setup.
David Patterson-Cole, CEO & Co-Founder of Moonchaser, said that “remote and hybrid work is here to stay. It looks like they are changing our business landscape. They are our future work. We should come in prepared and ready for what lies ahead.”
Importance of task prioritization
The concept of task prioritization is relatively straightforward. It entails knowing what to do first and what comes last in a list of assigned tasks. However, it’s best to prioritize critical tasks.
So what are critical tasks?
For the most part, critical tasks demand focused resolution and immediate action. These tasks can be either important or urgent. They can positively bring potential income or negatively hit the bottom line when left unattended.
Why should you prioritize critical tasks in the first place? Here are some reasons you should do so:
- Boost efficiency and productivity: Prioritizing critical tasks is a viable solution for increasing your efficiency and productivity. Why? It puts everything in order.
- Reduce stress and anxiety: Prioritizing critical tasks can be good for you personally. You’ll be able to free up your time; you’ll also become more satisfied.
- Achieve customer satisfaction: Task prioritization isn’t only good for you and the business in general. Doing so all boils down to making your customers completely satisfied.
- Increase business profits: Time is money in the world of business. It makes sense to make the most of your time by paying attention to the most crucial tasks.
- Ensure overall business success: Making critical tasks a priority can go a long way, from increasing your productivity to satisfying customers to augmenting business profits. Ultimately, task prioritization can lead to overall business success.
How to prioritize critical tasks for remote work
Practicing critical prioritization is one thing, but taking care of some tasks remotely is another. The latter comes with a lot of obstacles and challenges. Therefore, you must sit down and plan how to be effective, efficient, and productive in your task.
That said, here’s how to prioritize critical tasks for your remote work:
1. Start by defining and identifying critical tasks
The first thing you should ask is: what makes a task critical? In most cases, you consider a task critical based on the following:
- It’s the main task stipulated in your job description.
- It’s either very important or urgent.
- It directly affects your end customers.
- It’s your business’ top source of income generation.
- It affects other business tasks and processes.
- It impacts the whole business or organization.
Unfortunately, tasks vary from one job to another. Make sure to define what critical tasks mean to you when working remotely.
As you have a list of tasks to accomplish regularly, start by identifying those considered critical.
2. Schedule your day and set project deadlines
After coming up with a list of tasks and determining crucial ones, you can now create a schedule. Of course, you’ll factor in the most critical to the least one in your remote work schedule.
While at it, make sure to set project deadlines as well. The ultimate goal is to meet these deadlines or accomplish tasks ahead of time.
It makes a difference if you become a master of your day with effective scheduling. It’s especially true for those working remotely with a flexible schedule. Additionally, it’s best to leverage digital tools and technology for your work schedule.
3. Rank tasks using the Ivy Lee method
The Ivy Lee method was developed more than 100 years ago. Ivy Lee was a productivity consultant who introduced this method for peak productivity.
This productivity method entails ranking tasks based on their order of priority. Of course, the critical ones must be on top of your list.
Lee outlined his simple daily routine as follows:
- Start by writing six vital tasks to accomplish for the next day. Assess their rankings based on their importance.
- When working the following day, focus on the first task. Proceed only with the second task after finishing the first one.
- Do the same until you complete the last task.
- Before the day ends, create another list of six vital tasks for the following day.
- Repeat the process each working day.
The Ivy Lee method applies all the more to remote work. It’s best to do this if you have a flexible schedule. Also, consider doing this if you’re working in a remote location with less supervision.
4. Use the ABCDE methods to determine similar priorities
While the Ivy Lee method is effective, assessing the tasks’ priority order is the hardest part. That’s where the ABCDE method comes in.
The ABCDE method has two parts: the letters (the order of importance) and numbers (the order of priority). The proponent of this method, Brian Tracy, laid out steps for prioritizing your tasks:
- Start by assigning letters to your list of tasks, with A as the most important and E being the least important.
- Next, assign numbers to each based on the order of tackling these tasks.
- Stop until all six have letters and numbers.
Your critical tasks will most probably get the first few letters. But decide if you’d like to handle them first or last, depending on what works for you.
5. Employ the Eisenhower Decision Matrix to separate urgent from important tasks
The former US president, Dwight Eisenhower, developed this productivity method. Hence, the name Eisenhower Decision matrix.
The matrix consists of four quadrants in a box tagged as ‘urgent’ and ‘important.’ Check the tasks under each quadrant and assess their priority status. Then, take the following steps:
- Urgent and important: Do these tasks immediately.
- Important but not urgent: Schedule these tasks.
- Urgent but not important: Delegate these tasks.
- Neither urgent nor important: Remove these tasks from your schedule.
6. Follow the eat-that-frog rule
The famous Mark Twain once wrote: “If you have to eat a live frog, it does not pay to sit and look at it for a very long time.”
This notion applies to work as well, particularly to remote work. Most productivity experts recommend tackling the most important task (MIT) immediately.
If you have critical tasks, go ahead and accomplish them right away. Don’t waste time staring at them and not getting them done. You’ll be surprised at how smoothly you can finish all other tasks once you complete the hardest.
7. Take advantage of your peak productivity hours
Most companies require employees to work for eight hours every day. However, the average employee is only productive for almost three hours per day.
The good news is that remote working has increased the productivity of over 66.67% of employers. Thus, remote employees should make the most of their working hours.
There are certain times in a day when you’re most productive and not. The best course of action is to identify your peak productivity hours. Make sure to tackle critical tasks during these productive hours.
8. Be wary of the sunk cost fallacy
Sunk cost fallacy is when you continue to do something because you’ve already invested in it.
For example, you commit to completing a task assigned to you due to an employee-on-leave. When the employee goes back to work, you insist on finishing the task because you’ve already started it. However, it’s not even a part of your job description.
It’s crucial not to fall prey to sunk cost fallacy. It’s especially true if you have tons of tasks to accomplish, and you must pay attention to critical ones.
If not, this fallacy can hamper your productivity and make you lose sight of your task prioritization.
9. Learn to say ‘no’ to some work
Some employees don’t know how to refuse some tasks delegated to them. They take on tons of work that can be overwhelming for them. As a result, their work gets compromised, and they feel burned out.
Learning to say ‘no’ has a positive repercussion in life. This idea applies to remote work as well. However, saying ‘no’ to work is easier said than done.
Forbes suggested explaining the reason when turning down a work request. It is also essential to be rational when saying no to a task. Lastly, it helps if you compromise and propose an alternative.
If you master the art of saying ‘no’ to work effectively, you’ll be able to do your job and focus more on critical tasks.
10. Accomplish one task at a time
Multitasking used to be a positive force to reckon with before. Albeit it purports to boost efficiency, taking more than one task at a time is counterproductive. It doesn’t augment productivity; it only increases busyness.
Recent studies revealed that multitasking makes you less efficient and more prone to errors. Why? Your brain merely switches gears between tasks, dividing your attention and affecting productivity.
The downside of multitasking isn’t apparent for simple tasks. However, it becomes a problem when handling complex tasks that demand undivided attention and urgent action.
So when it comes to prioritizing critical tasks, it’s best to accomplish one task at a time.
Prioritizing critical tasks is crucial to increasing productivity. However, it can be challenging to do so when working remotely.
As such, consider the practical tips recommended above, from identifying critical tasks to accomplishing one task at a time. Most importantly, employ productivity measures such as the Ivy Lee method, ABCDE method, Eisenhower Decision matrix, and eat-that-frog rule.
With all these in mind, you’ll reap the benefits of critical task prioritization. You’ll boost your productivity and profitability while making your customers completely satisfied. Ultimately, you’ll make the most out of your remote work and become successful at it.
David Patterson-Cole, CEO of the salary negotiation platform Moonchaser.