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Prioritizing Pointers: Five Steps to a More Productive Workday

Prioritizing daily tasks is key to successful time management. When you prioritize, you make sure you accomplish the most important tasks first. Make time management a habit, and your stress level (and your boss's!) will thank you. Follow this process:

1. Start with a master list. Write down every single task, both mundane and critical, that you need to accomplish. Don't rank the items at this point. Be sure to include routine duties. Neglecting to schedule the humdrum to-do items can topple your well-intentioned time-block schedule.

2. Determine the top priority A-level tasks-things that will lead to significant consequences if not done today. Focusing on consequences creates an urgency factor so you can better use your time. If you have a scheduled presentation today, that task definitely hits the A-list.

3. Categorize the rest of the tasks. Use these categories:

B-level tasks: Activities that may have a mildly negative consequence if not completed today

C-level tasks: Activities that have no penalty if not completed today

D-level tasks: D is for delegate. These are actions that someone else can take on.

E-level tasks: Tasks that could be eliminated. Don't even bother writing an E next to them-just mark them out completely.

4. Rank the tasks within each category. If your list has six A items, four B items, three C items, and two D items, your six A tasks obviously move to the top of the list, but now you have to prioritize these six items in order: A-1, A-2, A-3, and so forth.

What about the D items? They're ripe for being delegated to someone else! Consider the 85/10/5 rule: You tend to invest 85 percent of your time doing tasks that anyone else could do, 10 percent of your time to actions that some people could handle, and just 5 percent of your energy goes to work that only you can accomplish. Hone in on the critical 5 percent and recognize the remaining tasks that are easiest to delegate.

5. Repeat this process each day. Some of the Bs will move up, but others will stay in the B category. Some of the Cs may leapfrog the Bs and become the highest priority A's.

Tip provided from Thriving in the Workplace All-in-One For Dummies (Wiley Publishing, Inc., May 2010, ISBN: 978-0-470-57525-3, $29.99) is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the publisher by calling (877) 762-2974.

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