Personalize Your Task Management System With Unique Priority Labels
November 23rd, 2019
When I first tried to get organized with a task manager, I made every item red! I didn't have a system to prioritize tasks, so I wasted much time wrestling with my todo list rather than doing the todo list. Eventually, I gave up task managers. Later, I returned to task managers with a new plan, I would assign my own meaning to priority labels.
One of the keys to success is doing the right things. That's why prioritization is a core function of any good task management software. However, most task managers do not prescribe how to prioritize tasks. To effectively use priority labels, you must assign them meaning! This step is one key to create your personal productivity system.
In this article, I will share my method of prioritization using Todoist and my thinking behind the method.
My Priority Labels
In Todoist, there are four colored flags assigned as priority 1-4. Based upon the way I work, I have assigned specific meaning to each flag. The priority labels are based upon the type of task and the required level of focus, energy, and creativity.
In my work, I ascribe the following meanings to the four levels:
Priority 1 (Red)
- Items that are important but not urgent.
- Items that will make the biggest difference in the long term.
- Work that requires high focus, energy, and creativity.
- Tasks that require an environment free of distraction and hurry.
Priority 2 (Yellow)
- Regular tasks that must get done.
- Items that require medium to low focus and creativity.
- Items that can fit in between other tasks or appointments.
- Strict time frames are useful to help increase efficiency with these tasks. See Parkinson's Law.
Priority 3 (Blue)
- Items that are related to working with other people.
- Following up, checking in, meetings, etc.
- Tasks requiring flexibility and specific timing.
- I like having these separated from the regular tasks because the focus is not efficiency (get it done as fast as possible), but effectiveness (build and help people through every interaction).
Priority 4 (No Flag)
- Personal items I like all personal items to appear on my daily list. Using priority 4 puts them at the bottom of my daily to do list. This is not because they are unimportant! They are at the bottom of the list because I start out my day at the office and I must focus on accomplishing work items first.
Consider the Eisenhower Matrix
To their great credit, Doist is the first software company I have noticed picking up on this idea of assigning meaning to priority labels. I was so excited when I saw that they have an article on using the four flags to signify the four quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix. My prioritization system is loosely based upon the Eisenhower Matrix.
Your Priority Labels
The system outlined above is built on the way that I work. Your system will probably look different; and that is how it should be. The most effective priority system is the one that is personalized to you. As you consider how priority labels will work for you, consider the following factors to differentiate your labels:
- Energy Required
- Working Environments
The goal is to create a system that helps you do the right thing at the right time. If you've become frustrated organizing your work in a task manager, try it again with a clear plan to prioritize tasks. With the right tool and the right system, you’ll unlock the ability to make exceptional progress on the things that matter!