Prioritise Like a Pro

December 6, 2021

Being a small business owner requires ruthless prioritisation. It’s crucial to have an understanding of what’s important to your business and lifestyle, so you know where to place your focus. Failing to do so can lead you to overcommit which is a great way to become overwhelmed, inefficient, and unmotivated in your work. But don’t worry; here are some methods you can use to nail down your priorities and set yourself up for success.

Prioritise Like a Pro

Use the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritise important and urgent work

The Eisenhower Matrix is a framework for prioritising your work. What sets this apart from others is that it distinguishes between important work and urgent work.

When we focus solely on urgent work, we get stuck in a reactive cycle that drowns out the important but not urgent tasks, preventing us from prioritising efficiently.


The Eisenhower Matrix provides us with four categories in which to place our tasks. What makes it even better is that it tells us what to do with the items in each category.

The four categories of the Eisenhower Matrix are:

Create a commitment inventory

The commitment inventory is a great way to stay focused on the important tasks and banish the less essential activities. It forces us to take stock of where we are spending our time and find areas of improvement.

Here are the steps to creating a Commitment Inventory:

Step 1: List all of your commitments, i.e. where you are currently spending your time or what needs to get done. Your list should include everything from business tasks to home life activities.

Step 2: Consolidate these into categories, for example; business administration, business marketing, business strategising, housework, hobbies, and personal errands.

Step 3: Allocate a percentage of time that you are willing to commit each day to each category. This part can be tricky because there is only so much you can do in a day - your calculations must add up to 100%, so be realistic with your decisions.

Note: You may find yourself cutting out tasks or changing the percentage of time you wish to allocate to specific tasks, and that is what this exercise is all about - ensuring that your time and attention is spent on what matters to you.  


Step 4: Implement your commitment inventory - turn each category into a to-do list, remembering your allocation for each. When a new task comes along, ensure that it fits into one of your categories. If a task does not fit into one of your existing categories, it might be a sign that it shouldn’t be a point of focus right now.

Differentiate between ‘would like to do’s and ‘must do’s’

We all know what a to-do list is, and most of us use them daily. To-do lists help us to keep track of the tasks we need to do. We write the task down, we do it, we mark it as done - simple enough.

Done well, a to-do list enables proper planning and prioritisation, as well as aiding in the discovery of items you can delegate. Fall off the beaten track however, and it can all too quickly become overwhelming and oppressing. Here are a few tips to make your to-do list easier to manage and tasks easier to prioritise:



Discover what really matters with MoSCoW prioritisation

The MoSCoW prioritisation method provides a framework that aids in the discovery of what really matters. It is an excellent way to gain clarity when we’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks that need doing. The more overwhelmed we become, the harder it is to focus and the more we begin to procrastinate. By taking a step back and prioritising tasks, we can see the bigger picture and plan our time accordingly.

There are three simple steps to using MoSCoW prioritisation:

Step 1: Write a to-do list. Treat this as a brain dump; get everything out of your mind and down on paper.

Step 2: Go through the list and place each task into one of four categories:

Step 3: Prioritise your tasks accordingly to their category.

Bonus tip

Keep on top of your high priority tasks by using the Ivy Lee method

The Ivy Lee Method is an astonishingly simple productivity system designed by Ivy Lee over 100 years ago. Don’t let its simplicity fool you – it can be highly effective at increasing your productivity and staying on top of your high priority tasks.

To start using the Ivy Lee Method, write down the six most important tasks to complete the following day. List these from most important to least important. When you begin work the next day, simply follow the list from top to bottom. Avoid starting on the next task until the current one is completed.

At the end of the day, create a new list of 6 tasks, carrying over any not completed. If you find yourself carrying the same task over, ask yourself if it remains important enough to be on your list and remove it if not.

The Ivy Lee Method really is that simple, but it will only work if you stick to two rules; 1) never have a list with more than six tasks and 2) do not move on to the next task until the current task has been completed.


And don’t forget…

Remain agile

Your priorities are not designed to be set in stone. They can change at any moment, and you must be ready to accept that. If you don’t remain agile, you will likely be set off into a flurry of panic when an urgent request drops into your inbox midway through your perfectly planned day.

So remain agile and reorder your priorities when necessary. Don’t worry; this will get easier as you become familiar with the methods we have discussed. After some practice, you will be able to reorder your priorities in no time and get back on track quickly, without stress or overwhelm.