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DECIDING PRIORITY

Updated: Mar 25, 2021

Target Readers: Managers, Project Managers, Team Leaders and anyone with a big to-do list


“I HAVE SO MANY TASKS TO DO AND ALL ARE IMPORTANT, EVERYTHING IS PRIORITY, WHAT TO DO?”


Often we have this situation in our growing careers when we are responsible for various tasks and deciding which task has more priority and should be started first becomes another task in our To-do list. This is a common problem with middle management roles. Even after putting lot of effort, your superior thinks that you are not efficient enough, whereas you are trying your best.

Your to-do list might be a big list of similar tasks related to each other or many different type of tasks but problem is same, where to start!

Later case becomes more prominent when someone is in managerial or leadership role, where one has to take various decisions every day, every moment and many people’s time and effort depends on his decision.

I believe it’s not at all easy to decide which task to do first when everything seems priority. It’s like deciding priority out of priorities.





So, how to decide which task or activity to take on first????






What we can certainly do is, we can try to understand some features which eventually help us in deciding priorities. Two important features of any task are Complexity and Criticality.


Complexity: Try to understand which task is complex and which one is simple. We often tend to leave a task un-attended due to its complexity.


A. If simple tasks are many but less time consuming, finish them first and then come

back to complex one, so that you can have better concentration. Because the list has been reduced drastically, it gives psychological motivation to complete complex task and it also increases productivity.


Let’s have a look at Thomas’s To-Do list, Program Manager in a software development firm, having techno-commercial role:


Situation List-A

1. Reply to HR to confirm one of associates probation completion

2. Reply to Training head to confirm list of trainees

3. To attend one of Project Manager’s request to help in solving a technical issue in an upcoming software launch

4. To check the weekly status of 2 ongoing projects

5. Write to Admin to confirm travel date for Dan


In above example it would be best to take on task no.-3 (Technical Issue) at last, because all other tasks can be completed quickly.


B. If simple tasks are many but more time consuming, it will be a good idea to first take

on the complex one so that there is no pressure of complexity. Let’s see below list

modified from above example.


Situation List-B

1. Conduct probation completion interview for an associate

2. Make a list of recommended candidates for training

3. To attend one of Project Manager’s request to help in solving a technical issue in an upcoming software launch

4. To check the weekly status of 2 ongoing projects

5. Write to Admin to confirm travel date for Dan


Now here first 2 tasks are simple in nature but needs considerable amount of time, so it would be better to tackle first complex one (task no.-3, Technical issue) and then come back to simpler tasks.



Criticality: “Not every complex task is critical”. Often it is assumed that every complex task is critical but this is a common misconception.

It would be easy to decide priority of a task if deadline is known. So, if a task has timeline attached to it, one can easily figure out when to start it.


But if the timeline is not clear or un-known then try to check it this way,

a.) Is any other task is dependent on this task? Or

b.) Is anyone else’s work depends on task at your end?


Situation List-C

1. Reply to HR to confirm one of associates probation completion

2. Meeting/ Discussion with Training head to finalize training topics, so that potential candidates can be selected

3. To attend one of Project Manager’s request to help solve a technical issue in an upcoming software for delivery on same day

4. To check the weekly status of 2 ongoing projects

5. Approve travel budget to Admin for Dan’s business trip, so that Admin can go ahead and book the tickets

In above example notice that task no.-3 has a delivery timeline of same day and it is complex one, so this becomes top most priority and should be handled 1st.

Task no. -5 has no clear timeline but it is evident that if it is delayed, ticket prices might rise and also Admin person’s next action depends on it, so Task no.-5 becomes the 2nd priority in the list.

Task no. 2 will be 3rd in the priority list, as it is predecessor for next task.

Tasks 1 & 4 can be taken last as they doesn’t seem critical. Also there is no timeline attached to them.



Above criteria’s are important ones in deciding priorities, but certainly not the only factors. One can have their own criteria’s depending on nature of work.

But the idea is to avoid another task of deciding priorities, so above criteria’s can be simplest ones to be considered. Also, it should be a quick bit so keep all above in your mind and move forward.

Happy Reading, Happy Learning


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