Life is short; but there always so much to do. This seems to be so true when you have many important things that need to be done all at once. Knowing how to prioritize multiple tasks is a great ability to have.
It is normally quite simple to prioritize your work load. But sometimes things just go wrong all at the same time. A great deal of entrepreneurs can relate to this, especially when first starting out. Some days things just don’t go your way.
So, how do you prioritize multiple tasks when everything is important and needs to be done right away? You go with your gut!
Are You Racing Around In Circles?
Newbies don’t always have the experience to know what is important and what isn’t. They race around in circles trying to do everything at once. Because of this they make mistakes and then feel worse than before.
Everyone makes mistakes, especially when starting a new business. With experience and through trial and error, most of us learn from these lessons. So, never let mistakes worry you excessively. As your experience grows, the number of mistakes you make will be minimized.
Knowing what your goals are is important. But completing tasks in order to reach those goals is another thing all together. Sometimes when life gets a bit messy, you just don’t get around to completing certain tasks.
This is where many newbies come unstuck. This can be because at the time the tasks didn’t seem to be that important. Or maybe you feel overwhelmed because everything is new and you are unsure of yourself.
In many circumstances, people avoid the tasks that they don’t like to do. They avoid the tasks that they find the most difficult. The best action to take is to prioritize tasks and to complete all tasks as they crop up. This includes those tasks that you hate doing. That way you will reduce the probability of tasks building up excessively.
Most of the time it’s pretty clear which tasks are your highest priorities. Most entrepreneurs know how to prioritize multiple tasks. They can quickly work out their daily list of things to do. They also have strategies in place to minimize disasters.
But what happens when there are two, or more, equally important tasks that require your attention? What do you do when you don’t have time to complete all the important stuff in one day?
For example, your bank statement shows that you are overdrawn. You don’t understand how that come about and need to go to the bank to discuss the matter.
At the same time, your best customer complains that the goods he received were not to his specifications. So, you need to go out and see him to smooth out the issue.
To make matters worse, one of your staff has taken leave under suspicious circumstances. You need to go through your inventory to see if anything is missing.
Which task do you handle first if you have time to only do one of these tasks? None of these tasks can be delayed, they all need your attention now, at this very moment.
You are overwhelmed! All you can think of is that your business is going to suffer. Everything needs your attention, all at once. You are being pulled every which way.
Having never been in this situation before, you don’t know what to do. Your mind freezes and goes blank. You can’t think of anything and feel lost and isolated.
Panic starts to set in because you don’t know where to start. You feel a failure because everything impacts on you resolving these issues immediately. The more you panic the more your stress levels rise!
Disadvantages Of Multitasking
Grabbing at straws you come up with a solution. This solution is to multitask and do everything all at once. But what you will find with multitasking, is that you can only give a little of your attention to each project. Because of this, your productivity drops drastically.
Your brain can only handle one complex thing at a time. With multitasking, the attention that you can give to each task isn’t going to make any difference. This is because the work that you perform will be substandard.
Also none of the tasks will get completed because your brain can’t cope. What is worse is that your brain and body will be flooded with adrenaline caused by stress. Trying to do too much at once will cause you to stress.
Chronic stress can affect every system in your body. It disrupts your immune system, digestive and reproductive systems, and speeds up the aging process. Worse still, it can increase the risk of heart attack, stokes, and cancers.
Health And Well-Being
What is more important than money and your business success? Your health and well-being are your most important assets and should take precedence!
I personally base many of my decisions on their effect on my health, well-being and happiness. Using this as a basis for my decision making helps me to know what are the most important things in life.
The health and well-being of myself and family, come first. The well-being and safety of the people around me, come second. And the welfare of my business, comes third.
While at first everything may seem to be equally important, this isn’t usually the case. How do you know how to prioritize multiple tasks when they all seem equally important? The method that I use is as follows:
- Is it life threatening to myself, staff, customers, contractors, general public, pets, or other animals?
- Is it physically threatening to my business’ intellectual property, or physical assets?
- Will it affect customer or staff loyalty?
- Will it affect the bottom-line?
Other factors that I take into consideration are:
- Will the consequences have long or short-term effects on the business.
- Is there a band-aid solution?
- Can I delegate the task?
- How much stress will this cause me?
- Can I live with the consequences?
Of course, I want my business to profit. And I will do all in my power to achieve this. But not at the expense of my well being and the welfare of those around me.
Some things if they are not attended to right away, may damage your business. Your health, and the well being of others should be the most important thing that determines your actions. Keep this in mind when prioritizing tasks.
Will It Matter In Ten Years’ Time?
There is another method that you could use to determine how to prioritize multiple tasks. You decide the importance and priority of tasks based on whether or not the outcome will matter to you in 10 years’ time.
Your business is important, but is it as important as real-life matters. If the building that you’re in is burning down, what do you do? Do you flee, or do you try to save items that are important to you?
Fleeing should be the number one option. Trying to save items will put your life in jeopardy and result in injury or even death. It’s understandable that irreplaceable things are important to you, but in the end, they are just things.
Think back to the things that caused you to stress and that you thought were important to you 10 years ago. These things can be anything that you did or didn’t do. Things or actions that resulted in a loss of income, loss of opportunity, embarrassment, guilt, heart-ache or disappointment. Are those things still important to you now? Or has your life moved on?
No-one is exactly sure of what the future will bring. But what is certain is that in ten years’ time, your life and other people’s lives and well-being will still be important. Whereas, in ten years’ from now you could have disbanded your current business and pursued something else.
If you look after the welfare of yourself and others first, then everything else will fall into place.
Learn To Let Go
Business worries can result is stress if issues aren’t quickly resolved. Too much stress can lead to high blood pressure, stress, stomach ulcers, or cancers. But when you accept the fact that you can’t do everything all at once, this acceptance will relieve some of the pressure.
While it’s difficult not doing the important tasks that your business requires, it’s sometimes more important to learn to let go. Yes, I know that your business is your baby and that you want it to grow and skyrocket.
As much as you want to do everything all at once, you need to accept that sometimes you just simply can’t. If it’s not doable, let it go.
Take 3 deep breathes and mentally distance yourself from your work. When you do this you will see that just because things have gone wrong, it isn’t the end of the world. Your business will, in the majority of circumstances, recover.
If you don’t surrender and let go, your mind will go blank. Then you won’t be able to work on any tasks at all! But the moment you step back and let go, the stress will begin to fade. You will be able to put things back into prospective. A clear mind will enable you to make the best decisions and get back to work.
On many occasions we misjudge things and think that they are more catastrophic than they really are. When we discover a serious problem we might panic and go into overdrive to try to fix the problem.
If for some reason we don’t know how to prioritize multiple tasks and can’t resolve problems immediately, we then think it to be the “end of the world”.
For example, if you are late with a large shipment of goods, you may think that this is disastrous. You may believe that your customer will be angry and take his/her business elsewhere. An apologetic phone call to your customer, will in most cases, be an acceptable band-aid solution.
A band-aid solution is one that temporarily stops the problem from developing further. Band-aid solutions should only be used on a temporary basis. They should only be in place for short periods while a permanent, long-term solution is found.
Your customers have chosen your business for a variety of reasons. They have in all probability taken a fair amount of time researching all the various businesses before choosing yours.
They therefore aren’t going to change businesses immediately due to one error. Instead, apologize or provide them with an acceptable reason for the error. Your customer will most probably forgive your errors rather than change businesses.
When you are in a dilemma and aren’t sure how to prioritize multiple tasks, choose those that can’t be temporarily fixed with a band-aid solution and go with your gut.
Go With Your Gut
When everything needs to get done immediately, many people become confused as to how to prioritize multiple tasks. They are tempted to do a little of each task. But doing this will not help with complex tasks.
This is because the brain can only concentrate on one complex task at a time. Multitasking complex tasks will most likely result in meltdown, and then nothing will be completed.
When you don’t have time to analyze each problem, choose your priority task based on your gut feelings. You may think that this is an emotional move that is just based on a feeling rather than facts. But in over 50% of cases, going with your gut feelings is the correct way to go.
Prioritize the task that your gut tells you to pick, and do it right away. Should you always trust your gut feeling? I do and it has never been wrong. My experience is that my gut tends to pick the task that has the biggest impact on my business. Or my gut will chose the task that I’ll lose the most sleep over.
Once you have chosen your task, give it your full attention. Don’t think about the other tasks that need to be done. Because at the end of the day, it’s better to complete one task than none at all. You can then complete the other tasks on consecutive days.
Do it right, and do it to completion. When you take action, your mind will be occupied with the things you need to do to complete that task. When you are doing something constructive, you will feel better. Your mind will clear and your stress levels will drop.
How To Prioritize Multiple Tasks
At the end of the day your business is important, but your life, health and well-being are more important. Trust in the fact that if you miss a deadline, in most cases, it won’t matter in ten years’ time.
However, being overwhelmed due to stress will kill your productivity. To avoid this:
- Surrender and accept the fact that you can’t do everything at the same time.
- Pick the task that your gut tells you is the most important.
- Handle each task one at a time until it is complete.
- Remind yourself to put everything into perspective.
Next time you are stressed about how to prioritize multiple tasks, put your mind at ease. Remind yourself that life is more important than business. Doing this will clear your mind. You will then be able to fully concentrate on each task without the guilt.
Do you know how to prioritize multiple tasks? Are you trying to do too much all at once?
Do you feel guilty when tasks aren’t completed on time.
I would love to hear from you, please leave your comments below.