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How to prioritize small business tasks

I have, probably, around twenty things on my to do list. Prioritizing decisions in our personal lives can be difficult enough, but how do we set priorities when they impact not just us, but our businesses and the people we work with?

Trying to touch on everything at once never ends well, so here’s a handy framework you can refer to whenever you have a decision to make about prioritization and goal setting:

1. What do you want to achieve?

It can be easy to simply list your to-do list and say they’re your goals, but what’s the actual vision of your business? What are your overarching company goals?

Success is something different for each person and business, but regardless of what it is, if it isn’t well defined it can be impossible to reach. Have a think about what your goals are for this quarter, year or long term.

Once you’ve identified those goals, they should act as the guide for what everyone in your business does every day. Make sure your goals are applicable for each person on your team, and that they feed into the success of your business – then, everyone will prioritize the tasks which will better lead them to fulfilling that goal.

2. Make sure everyone is on board.

Decisions shouldn’t be kept private from teams, nor should goals – if you want to move your business in a certain direction, you need to let everyone know so they can start pushing it that way.

This is essential, as it ensures everyone is prioritizing the right tasks, and keeps employees motivated as they feel they’re truly a part of the team. By sharing information in emails, meetings and through business intranets, everyone can work with more direction, be more empowered, and have more trust in the people around them.

And if everyone, at all tiers of the business, is working towards the same goals then success is much more likely – and micromanagement and other distractors far less.

3. Compare priorities to your goals.

Let’s break it down to individual decisions. Let’s say you have a number of things on your to do list, all of which seem beneficial in some way – how do you pick which to tackle first?

The easiest way is numerically – let’s say you have three core business objectives: how many of them does this task help you achieve? If it helps all three objectives, then it’s an essential task that should be completed first, and so on.

But don’t disregard tasks which don’t fulfil core business objectives; they can be essential to bringing in fresh ideas and movement so long as they’re not harmful, but they should be completed when other high priority tasks have concluded.

4. Proof is in the pudding.

If you’ve been pursing set goals and prioritizing tasks to help you complete them, step back regularly and check that you’re on track and your decisions have been the right ones.

Everything is a continual process (there’s no quicker business killer than ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’) so don’t worry if you need to constantly evolve to reach the goals you’ve set.

If the tasks you’ve been prioritizing haven’t really been helping with company goals, take a moment to ask why and then reshuffle and try again, or set more relevant, achievable goals.

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With set goals and everyone on the team working towards the same objective, you’re likely to start prioritizing the most helpful tasks automatically – and there’s no greater building block for a successful business than a focused team.

- Lena Klein

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