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When greeted with a to-do list as long as your arm, it can be difficult knowing which tasks to start first and which tasks to save for later. Ideally, you should prioritize the most crucial tasks though that won’t always mean doing them first necessarily (it may mean waiting until you have more energy to do a good job).

Here we will look at some questions you should ask yourself when deciding which task should take precedence over the others so that you can start making a dent in that mountain of work.

The Domino Effect

The first thing to ask yourself, is whether there’s any one task you can complete that will make the others easier. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘domino effect’, as by knocking over that first item, you will make the others that much easier.

Time Sensitivity

Also useful to consider is whether any of the things on your to-do list are time-sensitive. In some cases you will have jobs that need to be done by a certain time and of course these sorts of jobs will probably be best completed first.

That said, if the deadline is not imminent and you have time to complete another task first, sometimes this added time incentive can be a useful way to force yourself to complete more work in less time. Work has a tendency to ‘fill’ the time that it is allotted.

Open Loops

An ‘open loop’ is a task that has been started and left incomplete, or that is playing on your mind. This might mean responding to a client that you don’t want to respond to, or it might mean making a phone call that you’ve been putting off.

If you find yourself putting off completing a task, then chances are that that task is causing you stress. And if it’s causing you stress then you should do it soon.

The reason for this is that being stressed will prevent you from working to the best of your ability on all other tasks and will leave you distracted.

Outsourcing and Automating

Don’t forget that some of these tasks may not in fact need to be completed by you at all. If you can defer the job to someone else, outsource it to an online service, or complete it using a piece of software, then consider doing that instead.