How to Prioritize Tasks in 7 Steps

A never-ending to-do list with looming deadlines piling up is everyone’s worst nightmare.

But as there are only so many hours in a day and tasks will not cease, how about envisioning a scenario in which you will stop pushing?

As controversial as it may sound, we’re suggesting you take a break, browse through this article, and identify a structured way of navigating through your tasks.

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This article aims to give you the instruments needed to regain control of your day. So, follow along to learn how to prioritize tasks.

Prioritization determines almost all your outcomes. It is often seen not only as a soft skill valued by employers but also just a task in itself.

The first step in starting to prioritize tasks is understanding what you’re really working towards (= the outcomes). Once you’ve identified those pertinent tasks contributing to your future outcomes, you’ll be equipped to make a task list, and trim it based on prioritization methods.

Moving forward, you’ll learn concepts such as creating lists, adopting a prioritization strategy such as the ABCDE method and the Eisenhower matrix, and managing tasks that are both important and urgent at the same time.

Learn how to prioritize tasks, improve your productivity levels, and avoid repeating the cycle of dragging tasks from one day to another.

How to prioritize tasks: Stop playing catch up with these 7 steps

1. Create a master list of your tasks

Start by literally “dumping” all your tasks on your physical notebook or the digital planner, depending on your preference.

Remember, in this stage, your focus will be on getting all your to-dos out of your head. It would be ideal to add them in some kind of order, which will help you in the long run. For example, you can simply jot down your daily tasks first. These will be followed by weekly and monthly tasks according to the type of responsibility and deadline.

For example: Meetings, phone calls, or replies to e-mails could be added under the daily group, whereas working on a project milestone or reviewing documents can be under weekly tasks, and so on.

There’s also the option of organizing all the tasks by their source or channel of request. Keep it all in one place, be it digital or analog. This exercise aims to simplify the workload and make it feel less overwhelming.

Don’t censor yourself when “brain dumping”. After this exercise, you’ll feel your mind much lighter and ready to handle the actual work.

2. Categorize your tasks in more detail

Categorizing is the next important step, and it has a higher impact if done before establishing your prioritization strategies.

A prioritization technique you can use to categorize your tasks is the 4Ds of time management, which include the following steps:

  • Do the task now
  • Defer the task to a later time
  • Delegate the task to someone else
  • Delete the task from your list

This framework is a time management technique identified as well as the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, as it was created by the former president of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower.

The 4 quadrant matrix helps you prioritize tasks based on levels of importance and urgency.

Something can be important and urgent, not urgent but still important, not important but urgent, or not urgent and not important. Sounds complicated, but here’s what it looks like for a complete picture:

Eisenhower used this quadrant organization method to figure out how to prioritize work and his daily priorities as follows:

  • Important and most urgent tasks: high-priority tasks to be done as soon as possible;
  • Important but not urgent: what needs some planning;
  • Urgent but not important: what can be delegated;
  • Not important nor urgent: other tasks can be deleted.
Eisenhower Matrix, urgent important matrix, Prioritize task, Task Management, Project Management, Process infographics

So, once you check your list, you realize there are a couple of easier tasks you can do right away, which will guide you immediately to:

  • Do: Simply put, if a duty doesn’t depend on other tasks (i.e., waiting for your manager’s response or a reply from your stakeholder), simply do it.

Example: sending an e-mail or clearing your inbox.

  • Defer: One task or perhaps some complex tasks need to be paused and assigned to someone else. Whether there is another priority task that needs to be solved with urgency or resources need to be reallocated, deferring would mean setting your initial responsibilities aside.

Example: You don’t have to read all of your e-mails right away. You can finish more important tasks, and once you have free time, you can read your pending e-mails.

  • Delegate: Delegating a task means assigning that responsibility to someone else on your behalf.

Example: On your priority list, there is a report for a client that needs to be finalized in the next few hours, but you have more urgent and important tasks. Delegating means that you’re assigning that responsibility to someone else from the team on your behalf. Ideally, assign it to one of your team members while you’re dealing with time-sensitive matters.

  • Delete: These are the remaining tasks that have been on your list for a while but no longer have a high value, so it’s time to let them go.

Note: For this category, be aware of the completion bias, which is a tendency to finalize a task once you have started it, regardless of its necessity to be finalized or not.

If you have challenges in delegating tasks, read our guide to learn how to delegate tasks effectively

Read our guide to learn how to delegate tasks effectively.

3. Adopt a prioritization method

The prioritization method you’ll be choosing will depend on the nature of your tasks and personal preference. Moving on, you’ll find some of the most known methods so that you learn how to prioritize your tasks and understand which works best for your workflow.

Eat the Frog Method

The Eat the Frog task prioritization method was, surprisingly, inspired by a famous Mark Twain quote:

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.”

This means you should start your day with the most complex or the most important task on your list, as these are the ones you are also dreading as much as you can. So, it’s simple: eat the frog as early as possible.

After that, you can move to the rest of the to-do list. Starting the work day by “eating the frog” will help you feel less stressed and contribute to a better work-life balance.

The MoSCoW Method

MoSCoW method was developed by Dai Clegg, a software engineer who worked at Oracle. It focuses on prioritizing tasks based on outcomes, and it’s a great method to use in project management.

So, according to this prioritization technique, you’ll be dividing the project into four categories:

  • Must have – outcomes or results without which the project won’t be able to move forward or even exist, and need immediate attention.
  • Should have – outcomes or results that are not super critical but are important.
  • Could have – outcomes or results that can be delivered if/when there’s enough time or budget.
  • Won’t have – outcomes or results that won’t be delivered (unimportant tasks can fall in this category).

By categorizing your outcomes, you’ll jumpstart your project management plan with a prioritized task list right away.

ABCDE Method

The ABCDE method consists of grading the different tasks you have on your list.

“A” is the highest grade (and the most important priority), and “E” is the lowest one (and the least important task that can be eliminated from the list).

With this method, you’ll quickly weigh task importance to help you identify your highest-priority tasks. While A and B tasks are the ones to get to first, you’ll have the peace of mind that D tasks and E tasks won’t need your attention for a while.

4. Adopt a time management technique

To take your task prioritization process to the next level, an effective time management technique can be applied.

To start the process, you’ll need a radiography of your time. For that, you can ask yourself the following:

  1. What’s my current situation when it comes to time management?
  2. What’s my schedule like?
  3. How often am I missing deadlines and struggle with work tasks? (this implies a struggle with time management)
  4. What tools do I use to help me pursue my goals? (For example, a digital calendar, a time-tracking tool, or project management software.)

Once you’ve clarified the above, we’re suggesting you start doing your meaningful work by using a time management technique. One method you can start with is timeboxing. It is fairly simple to implement it, as all you need to do is block the time you need for each task. What this means is that in the period you’ve blocked for a task, you stay focused only on it and try to carry it through to the end.

Another time management technique is the Pomodoro technique, which is commonly used to prevent distractions and complete tasks.

Using a Pomodoro timer, set timed deep work sprints of 25 minutes. During this block of time, you’ll be focused on the task at hand. Knowing that you only have to focus for a shorter period is an excellent way of practicing your ability to concentrate.

Read: Doesn’t it work for you? Then, you need to know the most reliable substitutes for the Pomodoro method.

5. Use a time-tracking app

If you’ve applied some of the techniques we mentioned before, but you’re still struggling to gain control over your time, it’s best to start with an objective radiography of it. An objective radiography can be provided by a time-tracking app.

A time tracking tool will ease your tracking process with embedded automation while generating insightful reports of your time spent on each task. This way, you’ll be able to optimize your workflow and prioritize what matters.

You can use Timeular as it is an effortless, smart, and secure tool offering:

  • Automatic time tracking: Fill in your timesheets based on app usage, visited websites, and scheduled calendar events.
  • Multiple tracking methods: Start tracking time by simply pressing CMD + E, or inserting an activity in your calendar.
  • Use the physical time tracker: Enhance your time tracking experience by trying tactile time tracking. That’s possible with Timeular’s physical time tracker, an 8-sided cube that tracks 1000+ activities for you.

You need a simple, yet robust time tracking tool

Try Timeular which was recognized as the most user-friendly time tracking app for teams and individuals

5. Start with the most important task of the day

By completing the most important tasks first, you are practicing a prioritization technique in itself. This is especially helpful if you struggle to get daily tasks done or miss deadlines even after prioritizing them in other ways. The most important ones are the first to check off the to-do list.

By starting with that task having high importance and urgency, you’ll navigate the day with more ease and won’t feel overwhelmed that you have too many tasks.

TIP: A schedule may be useful to organize your day. Get a free work schedule template.

7. Review your plan often

As projects shift, work changes due dates and direction, or goals are redefined, so will your priorities. It’s critical to review and revise project task priorities with some frequency.

Make use of the frameworks and methods explained here, and find the best solution for your current needs.

TIP: Make your life easier with the best work prioritization tools.


When you prioritize your work, you can increase productivity, better manage your time, and meet deadlines. However, keep in mind that uncertainty and change are given.

Your priorities or the ones of your company will change, and often when you least expect them to. You need to be ready for the unexpected. This doesn’t mean you need to do it all or nothing. 

Don’t sabotage yourself from the start; remember that productivity does not exist on a static playing field.

The most important tasks can easily become intimidating, even if they don’t look like that at the beginning, just because you’ll be putting high expectations into them and pressure on yourself. Allow flexibility in your schedule for unexpected situations.

Ask yourself if you have the resources available to accomplish what you need to, and break your tasks into manageable smaller ones.

You’ll still be completing tasks, reaching goals, and feeling more productive overall. Don’t stop trying different prioritization methods until you find what suits you best.


What are the 4Ds of prioritization work?

The 4Ds of prioritization work are doing, delegating, deleting, and delaying tasks. The 4Ds represent a system to improve productivity.

What are the four levels of prioritizing tasks?

The four levels can be interpreted as creating a task list, organizing tasks according to a preferred method, scheduling the tasks in a calendar, and communicating progress with the stakeholders or team members involved. 

What are three priorities at work?

We can identify three top priorities at work: listing all tasks and things we have to do, organizing our calendars, and keeping communication channels open with our co-workers and superiors.

How to prioritize multiple urgent tasks?

This is a common occurrence, and to handle these situations, you can take other aspects that’ll weigh in on the importance of each task in comparison to others, such as the due date, resources needed, or if everyone involved is available etc. This is called relative priority.

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