A common interview question is “How do you prioritize your work?”.
In this post, I am going to show you real examples of people's answers.
- Before you talk about any particular tools or techniques that you’ve used to do this, outline your overall approach to managing your workload.
- Use examples – ideally with some metrics – of times when you’ve met tight deadlines, coped with unexpected tasks, or responded to sudden priority changes.
- It’s important to show that you know the difference between important and urgent; that your approach is both organized and flexible; and that you’re able to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Identifying the tasks ahead of and determining the tasks' position
I prioritize my work by first identifying the tasks ahead of me. Then, I try to determine which of those tasks are urgent, and which are important but not urgent.
I always start with the most important tasks and work my way down the list. If a task is both urgent and important, then I make sure that I get it done on time. If it's just urgent or just important, then I figure out which one should be prioritized more highly. This usually depends on how close we are to a deadline or release date for the project.
If there's an unexpected task that comes up during a day or week, then I make sure to add it to my list as soon as possible so that it doesn't get lost in all my other responsibilities.
When something unexpected happens at work (like an emergency meeting), then I make sure that it won’t interfere with any of my other responsibilities or deadlines by planning ahead with the team leader or manager beforehand so that they know how long it might take me.
Looking at the project as a whole and making sure about roles
When I'm prioritizing my work, I first take a look at the project as a whole and make sure that I understand what my role is in it. Then, I break down the project into smaller tasks and determine when each one needs to be completed.
When I have to prioritize my work in order to meet a deadline or respond to an unexpected task, I'll map out a timeline for completing each task, making sure that none of them overlap by too much.
Finally, when it comes to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, I try to schedule time for breaks throughout the day and find ways to reduce stress by taking walks or meditating during lunch breaks.
Using a simple matrix to prioritize the work
I like to use a simple matrix to prioritize my work. First, I figure out what needs to be done and how much time it will take me. Then I put the tasks into one of three categories: urgent and important; not urgent but important; and neither urgent nor important.
I then take each task from the first category and put it in the top left quadrant of my matrix. The tasks that don’t fit into any quadrant go into a “pending” queue until they can be assigned or re-prioritized based on their importance and urgency.
Once I have all my tasks sorted into their appropriate quadrants, I have an easy way to see which ones are most important at any given moment so that when there are unexpected changes or new priorities arise, I can quickly reevaluate which ones need to be done first.
Scheduling tasks on a calendar
I prioritize my work by breaking down big tasks into smaller parts and then prioritizing each of those smaller parts. I also try to think about when the task is due, what resources will be required, and who else needs to be involved in order to complete the task.
I use Google Calendar for this purpose because it allows me to schedule tasks on a calendar—it's easy for me to see what needs to get done and when, so I can schedule time for different tasks. It also has a feature where I can set reminders for myself, so if something needs to be done sooner rather than later, it will pop up on my phone or computer screen with a reminder that it's time to get moving!
I've had some experience with unexpected tasks: when we moved offices last year, our network connection went down and there was no way of contacting the IT department or anyone else who could help us fix it (we were all out of town). In this situation, I had to figure out how to fix the problem myself—but luckily there were some software engineers at work who knew how networks work. With their help, I was able to determine that there was something wrong with our router's configuration file and fix it!
Assessing the relative importance of each task and scheduling it accordingly
My approach to prioritizing my work is to assess the relative importance of each task and schedule it accordingly. I use a variety of tools and techniques in order to keep track of my tasks and make sure that they're getting done on time.
For example, when I worked as an editor, I made sure that I set aside at least two hours every day to focus on the most important tasks. That way, if an urgent issue came up, I could always find time for it without having to worry about falling behind on other projects or missing deadlines.
I also used a variety of tools for tracking my progress: I used Google Calendar for keeping track of meetings and other appointments; Trello for organizing all of my projects; Airtable for storing data from various sources; Slack for communicating with colleagues; and Asana for managing my workload more efficiently.
I've also found it helpful to use a Pomodoro Technique technique while working: after spending 10 minutes on one task, taking a break of three minutes before moving onto another task (or even doing something else entirely). This helps me stay focused on what I need to do without getting distracted by other things around me.
Using a number of different tools to help prioritize work
I like to start by looking at the big picture. I use a number of different tools to help me prioritize my work, but the most important thing is that I make sure I have a clear understanding of the role each task plays in achieving our overall goals.
I find that this helps me see where we need to be most efficient and where we should focus our efforts. It also helps me decide what tasks are less important so that when I get interrupted by an urgent task, I can more easily decide whether or not it’s something that needs to take priority over what I’m working on.
Very organized approach
I have a very organized approach to prioritizing my work. First, I take a step back and look at the big picture. What are the goals of the project? How long do we have to complete it? What resources are available?
I then break down those goals into smaller tasks that need to be completed in order to achieve them. I look for any connections between these tasks that might make them easier to accomplish together (for example, by delegating them to different team members).
Then I create a checklist of these smaller tasks and prioritize them according to their importance and urgency. Finally, I make sure that everything is clearly communicated with the rest of my team so everyone knows what needs to get done and when.
Starting the day making a list of everything that needs to be done
When I'm working on a project, I always start by making a list of everything that needs to be done. Then I prioritize it based on what's most important and urgent, and then break the tasks down into smaller pieces so they're easier to manage.
For example, if my project is to write a blog post about how to use [company name] software, the first thing I do is make a list of everything that goes into writing a blog post. Then I'll prioritize those things based on their importance: The title is more important than the intro, which is more important than the conclusion. Then when it comes time to actually write the blog post, I'll start with the title and work my way through each section until it's finished.
This approach has worked for me in many different situations—for example, when we were preparing for our quarterly sales report and had only two days to get everything ready (and two days before our CEO was coming in), or when we had an unexpected major customer who needed our help right away (and they were willing to pay us extra!).