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Task prioritization is a powerful tool when executing a project. There are so many different tasks it can look at if your work-life balance is tilting towards never having any time off. But project managers understand that applying task management and time management methods will both boost team morale and productivity.
That’s why it’s essential to understand what task prioritization is, why it’s important and how project management software can help teams work more efficiently while providing project managers with time-tracking features that allow them to stay on schedule. Let’s go into how to prioritize a team’s task list to ensure nothing crucial to the project is neglected.
What Is Task Prioritization?
Task prioritization is when a project manager looks over the work assigned to their team and breaks it down by urgency. This way, the most important tasks are prioritized and team members can focus on the most critical tasks first. The project manager must determine which of those tasks should be done first.
When breaking down tasks, project managers have four options. They can either mark the task as a high priority, which means they need to be done immediately due to being tied to business or client objectives. Next is medium priority, which are important tasks, but with deadlines that aren’t as fixed as high priority ones. Then, there’s low priority. These have flexible deadlines or are evergreen tasks. Finally, there are long-term tasks that can wait until everything else has been completed.
Project management software is extremely useful when it comes to task prioritization. ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that helps you break down your project into manageable tasks that meet the goals of the project. Our robust task list tool is one of multiple project views. You can set the priority, due date and add tags to make it easier to find the task. But every task can also be commented on and files attached to it. There’s even a status to see how complete the task you’re working on is. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.
Why Is It Important to Prioritize Tasks In Project Management?
Task prioritization is important in business or any work one does, but especially so with project management. In project management, you’re dealing with tight deadlines, budgets and stakeholder expectations. Task prioritization takes what could be an unruly project and carves a path to deliver the project on time and within budget.
But it does this while decreasing your team’s stress and increasing their productivity. Having specific tasks to work on rather than all of them weighing heavily on your shoulders does wonders for a team’s psychological state. They have the flexibility to get the important stuff done first and then move on to the next tasks.
It’s not only helpful to team members’ state of mind, of course. Task prioritization means that project managers can also allocate time in which the work can be tested and any errors caught early. There’s time to make any needed changes and stay on schedule instead of having to go back and repair issues.
Task management also gives teams the time they need to recoup from their work and face new tasks with a renewed focus. When you’re not constantly chasing deadlines and exhausting yourself and the team, there’s time to recharge your batteries. A well-rested team is more productive and can solve complex problems.
Prioritizing tasks is also an antidote for procrastination. Wasting time will kill your productivity. Having tasks scheduled, prioritized and further managed means no one is overburdened, but the work is still able to be done on schedule. This means there’s no time for procrastination or even a need to indulge in it. That’s because task prioritization keeps teams motivated by seeing how much they’ve accomplished.
Task Prioritization Techniques
It’s clear that task prioritization is important, but how can one implement it? Being able to discern high-priority tasks from those that can be put on the back burner isn’t always evident. To find that path through the seemingly endless succession of tasks, there are task prioritization techniques. Here are some of the more popular ones.
1. Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower matrix is named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States and a five-star general during WWII. Being in two high-pressure leadership positions taught him a lot about decision-making and how to prioritize tasks. He learned that there are urgent and important problems; urgent ones aren’t important and important ones aren’t urgent.
From this idea came the Eisenhower Matrix, which prioritizes tasks by urgency and importance. It creates a box divided into four quadrants. Vertically on the left is “not important” on the bottom and “important” on the top. Across the top of the box is “urgent” on the left and “not urgent” on the right. A project manager will place tasks in one of these four quadrants.
Tasks that have strict deadlines or consequences and must be done now will go to the top left. Tasks, where the deadline is unclear but still important and needs to be scheduled, will go to the top right. On the bottom left will be placed tasks that can be delegated. They need to get done but are for a different skill set. Finally, on the bottom right are tasks you can remove. They’re unnecessary to the project at hand and will only distract the team.
2. “Eat the Frog” Method
The “frog” is a challenging task, and eating the frog means doing that challenging task first thing in your day. The eat-the-frog method is a strategy for prioritizing tasks and increasing productivity. It helps project managers identify the hard tasks and get them out of the way first thing in the morning. Then you can move to the next task.
The philosophy behind this prioritization technique is you get the big and difficult tasks done early. That gives you momentum and ensures you don’t leave the hard stuff lingering in your mind all day. This is especially useful for those people who have tons of energy when they start their day and then taper off.
The beginning of the day is usually spent going through emails or Slack and maybe sitting through a daily standup meeting. All those tasks are useful, but they’re not urgent. By the time you’ve gone through these administrative duties, you’ll often have used a good deal of energy. Hitting the hard stuff first means you can do the busy work after lunch when you’re tired from eating. Eat the frog first.
3. MoSCoW Method
The MoSCoW method is an acronym for must-have, should have, could have and will not have. It was developed at Oracle by software development expert Dai Clegg to help his team to prioritize tasks when working on product releases.
Before using the MoSCoW method, the team should meet with stakeholders to define the project objectives and agree on which initiative should be prioritized. Once everyone is on the same page, you can then break up your work into smaller, more manageable parts by dividing it into the four categories of the MoSCoW method.
The must-have tasks are non-negotiable and are of the highest priority. “Should have” tasks are also important but not vital, however, they do add value to the project. “Could have” would be nice to include but will have a minor impact on the project if they’re excluded. “Will not have” tasks aren’t important within the specific timeframe you’re working.
4. ABCDE Method
ABCDE is a prioritization method that helps you determine which tasks are most important to least important and even those that can be deleted because they’re unnecessary. It’s like a to-do list that’s better organized and constructive.
A project manager and their team assign a different letter to each task depending on their priority. “A” tasks are those with the highest priority. “B” tasks are ones that you should do, but if you don’t get to them, there won’t be any serious damage done to the project. You can move on to them after the A tasks are done.
“C” tasks are ones that aren’t directly related to the project, but, again, can be addressed after A and B tasks are completed. “D” tasks can be delegated. That way you can concentrate on the A tasks and the D tasks can go to the appropriate team members. Finally, there are the “E” tasks. E stands for eliminate. These tasks don’t matter so you can stop doing them.
Task Management Templates
There are other tools that can help you with task prioritization. For example, ProjectManager has dozens of free project management templates for Word and Excel that you can download on our site. These templates cover every aspect of project management, from initiation to closure, and that includes tools for helping you with task management. Here are a few.
Task Tracker Template
Use our free task template for Excel to build to-do lists, start managing a project and keep track of your work. You’ll have fields to name the task, any dependencies and who it’s assigned to. Then add the priority and due dates. Plus, you can track its progress by noting its status, planned and actual due dates.
To-Do List Template
A to-do list is an essential task management tool. Our free to-do list template for Excel has everything you need to prioritize your work. It lists the tasks, start and due dates, progress and even has a color-coded column to show the percent complete of your work.
Task Prioritization Template
We talked about the Eisenhower matrix and our free project prioritization matrix for Excel is one. It can be used to prioritize projects if you’re managing a portfolio, but it’s just as useful if you need to prioritize tasks in a project.
ProjectManager Has Robust Task Prioritization Tools
ProjectManager is award-winning software that helps you prioritize tasks better than a static template can. For one, you don’t have to manually update our software. It has real-time data that keeps everyone on the same page as well as connects cross-functional teams whether they’re in the same office or different time zones. Because our software has multiple project views, managers can plan and schedule tasks on Gantt charts and teams can execute them on task lists, kanban boards, sheet or calendar views. All project views update automatically in real time so everyone is always working with the most current data.
Track Critical Path Tasks With Online Gantt Charts
Before you can prioritize tasks you have to organize them. Our powerful Gantt charts allow you to schedule tasks on a timeline so you can see the entire project on one screen. You can also link all four types of task dependencies to avoid costly delays and even filter for the critical path to see which tasks must be prioritized. Then save your plan by setting a baseline. Now you can track the critical path, progress and performance in real time, viewing the actual effort against your planned effort. If you’re not meeting milestones you can reallocate resources to get back on schedule.
Measure Costs With Timesheets and Workload Charts
Of course, you can prioritize all the tasks you want. But if you’re not paying attention to resource management issues, then your team won’t be working at capacity and productivity will suffer. Our resource management features help you keep track of your labor costs and team workload. Once you upload your team, you can add their hourly rate and availability, which makes it easier to assign them tasks. As they work, toggle to the color-coded workload chart to see everyone’s assignments in one place. If someone is over-allocated you can reallocate their work right from the chart. Once their workload is balanced you’ll have a more productive team.
There are other ways to monitor your team to ensure that they’re executing tasks aligned with the schedule. For a high-level view, use our real-time dashboard, which displays metrics such as workload, tasks and more in easy-to-read graphs and charts. There’s no time-consuming configuration as with other, lightweight tools. It’s ready when you are. You can also generate customizable reports on timesheets, variance and more to get more detail. Then share them with stakeholders to keep them updated.
ProjectManager is online project management software that helps you prioritize tasks and track them in real time. Empower teams and get the transparency managers need to remove bottlenecks and keep everyone working at capacity. Join teams at Avis, Nestle and Siemens who use our software to successfully manage their projects. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.