How to Manage Workload Effectively with Conflicting Deadlines

Managing conflicting priorities and deadlines |Managing multiple priorities, projects and deadlines

To manage workload effectively with conflicting deadlines and priorities is not easy. You may struggle to choose which task to complete first. But when everything seems important you must prioritize. Prioritization is an essential part of time management and being more productive at work.

How Do you Prioritize When Everything is Important?

Start with the tasks that need to be done urgently before tackling the most challenging task. You should also assess the effort needed to complete each task to avoid spreading yourself too thin.

By taking the time to assess every task, you can start sorting different priorities and create a clear schedule for the day.

When you see everything outlined, prioritizing tasks become a little easier. And it will help you stay organized, reduce stress, and keep you focused.

Here is How You Manage Workload Effectively with Conflicting Deadlines and Priorities:

Here in detail are 15 tips for managing multiple priorities, projects, and deadlines:

1. Create a List of Every Task and Project

To manage workload effectively, you first need a bird’s-eye view of everything that you need to accomplish. Having a better perspective of your responsibilities makes it easier to prioritize.

Create a list of every task and project. The complete to-do list should contain everything from daily tasks to long-term projects. Do not leave anything out.

You can write your list on a piece of paper or in a notebook. However, you will also need to frequently update this list. Using a computer program, spreadsheet, or mobile app can simplify the process.

Some programs and apps also include helpful features for prioritizing your workflow. For example, you may be able to move items between lists or links to resources.

2. Prioritize Work Based on Urgency

After creating a list of every task, start prioritizing. There are several recommendations on how to prioritize tasks at work, including prioritizing based on urgency.

Organizing tasks based on their urgency help you determine what needs to get done today, this week, or next month. Go through your list of tasks and separate “urgent” tasks from “important” tasks.

The important tasks may not always be urgent. For example, you may need to contact a client to discuss a specific matter before completing a transaction.

While this is an important task, you may be able to wait a day or two before completing it.

An urgent task is something that you need to complete within the next few hours or by the end of the day. Make the urgent tasks your top priority as missing the deadline may have serious negative consequences.

Related: 18 Examples of Time Management Skills

3. Prioritize Tasks Based on Effort

Some tasks take longer than others, which should influence the order that you complete them. You may not have the time to complete two five-hour tasks in a single day.

Spend a few seconds estimating the effort needed to complete each task. You may find that some tasks should only take a few minutes.

Be realistic when estimating how long something may take. Managing priorities and deadlines requires you to set realistic, accurate goals.
Analyzing the effort of each task will help you sort your tasks into separate daily, weekly, and monthly lists.

4. Break Large Tasks Into Smaller Tasks

Some of the tasks that you need to complete may involve multiple steps. When learning how to prioritize, break larger tasks down into smaller tasks.

Breaking larger tasks into smaller steps helps keep future tasks in your sight. You are less likely to put them off until the last minute.

For example, you may have a project that requires prep work, such as research. The research for the project could be the first step. Compiling the research and outlining the project could be the second step.

The idea is to outline the project and then slowly chip away at it to avoid rushing just before the deadline.

5. Create Monthly and Weekly Task Lists

You may find it easier to learn how to prioritize workflow by separating tasks into separate lists based on the time frame. This also helps when managing priorities and deadlines that conflict with each other.

Go through your list of tasks and separate them into monthly and weekly task lists. The monthly task list will mostly include large tasks that you have broken down into smaller tasks as discussed in the previous step. The smaller tasks should fit into your weekly list.

Using monthly and weekly lists is a common practice for workflow prioritization. It allows you to focus on more immediate concerns, such as the smaller steps needed to complete a larger project.

6. Create a Daily Priorities List

At the end of each day, create a daily list of tasks for the next day. This list should include tasks from your weekly list.
Use the previous suggestions to learn how to prioritize your day. You can organize your daily list based on urgency and effort.

The most urgent tasks should come first, such as responding to memos or gathering the resources needed to perform your job duties.

When prioritizing your daily list, pay attention to the effort needed for each task. If something may take three to four hours to complete, you may want to place it toward the top of the list. After you get back from lunch, you may not have time available for the task.

7. Start Your Day with a Challenging Task

Everyone has their own system on how to prioritize when everything is important. Some people prefer to start with the easiest tasks while others start with the most challenging work.

Starting with the hardest task is often the most efficient choice. Most people are more productive at the start of the day. Your brain is clear, focused, and ready to work. This makes it easier to concentrate on intellectually stimulating tasks.

Keep in mind that completing a few small tasks can also help boost your efficiency. If you have tasks that may only take a few minutes to complete, get them out of the way at the start of the day.

Narrowing your daily list down quickly lightens your load for the rest of the day, helping you stay focused and productive.

Also Read: 15 Tips on How to Stop Procrastinating at Work

8. Save Repetitive Work for the End of the Day

When learning how to set priorities, you cannot ignore repetitive, mindless tasks. This may include filing paperwork, entering information into a spreadsheet, or updating records. Save these tasks for the end of the day as they require less brain power but may still require more effort compared to a quick task.

The afternoon is also a good time to focus on tasks that require you to use your instinct or make bold choices.

Studies show that people are often more impulsive toward the end of the day. This is not the best frame of mind for complex, intellectually stimulating tasks. However, impulsiveness can help you make tough decisions.

9. Remain Flexible and Adjust Priorities as Needed

Setbacks and interruptions can interfere with your daily lists. You need to remain flexible so that you can easily adjust your priorities when things unexpectedly change.

Luckily, if you start with your most urgent tasks, setbacks should not keep you from completing the tasks with the shortest deadline. This should give you more flexibility in dealing with changes to your schedule.

When a setback occurs, do not assume that you need to address the problem immediately. Some issues can wait until later. If you take the time to assess the problem, you may find that you can still finish your daily list as planned and address the issue tomorrow.

10. Limit Your Exposure to Interruptions and Distractions

Good priorities help you stay on track. Unfortunately, interruptions and distractions can interfere with your plans.

As mentioned, you will likely encounter unexpected setbacks. However, you can plan for interruptions and distractions. This includes emails, phone calls, and meetings.

To limit workplace distractions, avoid checking your email frequently. If possible, only check your email in the morning, after lunch, and at the end of the day.

11. Avoid Trying to Complete Too Much Each Day

When sorting your tasks into daily, weekly, and monthly lists, be realistic about what you can accomplish. If you try to push yourself too hard, you are likely to become less productive.

You can only accomplish a certain amount each day. To make the most of the time that you have available, divide your day into blocks of time.

For example, if you work eight hours, divide your day into four two-hour blocks. Fill the blocks with tasks from your daily list based on the amount of effort needed to complete each task.

If you have a task that takes two hours to complete, it will fill an entire block. This helps you set a schedule and a rhythm for your workflow for the day.

Read More: Top 20 Positive Character Traits for the Workplace

12. Only Tackle One Task at a Time

One of the best tips for managing your workload effectively with conflicting deadlines and priorities is to focus on one task at a time. Avoid trying to multitask.

When you have a full plate, you may be tempted to take small bites from each item. Start with one task and do not move on to the next until you are done. This offers several important benefits.

Completing one task at a time keeps you focused, which increases your overall productivity. When you stay focused, you are less likely to make mistakes, resulting in less time spent correcting mistakes.

Sticking with one task also helps you eliminate another item from your list. With each item that you cross off, you may become less overwhelmed with your workload.

13. Delegate Tasks to Shorten Your Lists

How do you prioritize your work when managing conflicting priorities and deadlines? If everything is important and the deadlines overlap, you may need help. Learn to delegate.

Delegating tasks shorten your list, giving you more time to focus on each task. Allow others to handle some of your work to free up your time.

If you are not in a managerial position, you may still be able to ask someone for assistance with a project. Request help with one or two tasks to lighten your work for the day.

14. Remember to Include Your Own Priorities

Along with meeting the obligations of your current role, you should prioritize your personal goals and career goals.

Ask yourself “what are my priorities a year from now or ten years from now?” For example, you may want to achieve a specific position within your chosen field.

No matter your goals, break them down into smaller tasks and include them in your daily lists of priorities.

There is no point in working toward the goals of your employer if you cannot eventually reach your own goals.

15. Frequently Reassess Your Prioritizations

The last tip is to manage workload effectively, reassess your priorities frequently. You may finish a task early or late, requiring you to alter your task list for the rest of the day or the week.

Reassessing your list also helps you review the effectiveness of your choices. You may find that you get more done when you start the day with certain tasks.

Each time that you reassess your priorities, you are likely to slightly improve your ability to manage conflicting deadlines and projects.

Last Thoughts on How to Manage Workload Effectively with Competing Deadlines and Priorities

For many people, it’s a challenge managing competing priorities when everything is important.

So, how do you prioritize your work? You start with a detailed list of everything. Go through the master to-do list and prioritize the work based on urgency and effort.

To make your list more manageable, separate items into monthly, weekly, and daily lists. You should also ask for help or delegate tasks when managing competing priorities and deadlines.

You may not always have the time to handle everything on your list. Do not be afraid to lighten your workload. You could also ask for an extension, allowing you to focus on the task with the shorter deadline.

In the end, your productivity depends on your ability to learn how to prioritize your day. Continue to prioritize tasks and reassess the needs.

With practice, you should have no trouble to manage workload effectively with conflicting deadlines and priorities.  

Hope this article was useful.  How do you manage workload effectively with competing demand and deadlines?  Leave your thoughts in the comment box

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