Fact: Your “To Do” List Will Never Be Done

How AMAZING is it that as 4-H professionals we are faced with unlimited opportunities for growth and expansion for our programs, and for ourselves as professionals?

How FRUSTRATING is it that as 4-H professionals we are faced with unlimited opportunities for growth and expansion for our programs, and for ourselves as professionals?

It’s a double-edged sword isn’t it?  So how do you determine when enough is enough?  Or on the contrary, when do you decide that an opportunity is just too good to pass up.

The answer lies in prioritization.  The fact that is hard for many of us type-A, high achievers, to swallow is that we really can not do it all, so we have to pick and choose wisely.  There are actually several tools which can help you make these difficult choices.

One technique for prioritizing tasks is the “Deadline/Payoff” method.  This system is useful for determining longer term projects and  works by weighing the priority of tasks in accordance with their urgency and how much impact they A numerical value system is used that places more emphasis on impact than urgency:

Deadline Values

  • 1 = Long Term
  • 2 = Short Term
  • 3 = Immediate

Payoff Values

  • 1 = Low Impact
  • 3 = Moderate Impact
  • 5 = High Impact

For example:

Another method is the “Paired Comparison” method.  This allows you to compare pairs of choices, one pair at a time, versus multiple options at once.

As you go through your options, compare one task to another and determine which one would you do, if you could only do one.  With each pair you compare, assign a checkmark to the one that “wins.”  Then compare the winning task to another, and repeat the process until you have prioritized all items on your list.

Finally, there is the “Importance/Time” method.  This system allows you to consider how time-consuming a task is.  With this system, you focus on the most important, quickest, tasks first, and eliminate unnecessary tasks.

The first step in this method is assigning scores for importance and time for each tasks as follows:

Importance Values

  • 1 = High Impact
  • 2 = Moderate Impact
  • 3 = Low Impact

Estimated Time Values

  • 1 = Brief Time
  • 2 = Moderate Time
  • 3= Significant Time

For each task you will then be left with a series of numbers, for instance- 1,3.  The next step will be to assign each task Action, Reduce, or Eliminate (A/R/E).

Action = 1,1 – 1,2 – 1,3 – 2,1

Reduce = 2,2 – 3,1

Eliminate = 2,3 – 3,2 – 3,3

Therefore, if  a task has an importance of 1 and an estimated time of 2 (1,2), make this task an action item. If a task has an importance of 2 and an estimated time of 3 (2,3), eliminate this task if you can. 

Importance Time

By using this system, you can determine which items to reduce, to allow for more time to focus on the items which are more important.

So, while we may never check everything off of our ever-increasing “to do” lists, we can prioritize such that we are spending our limited time doing the things that will be of more benefit to our programs, and to ourselves.

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