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Project Management Strategies: Prioritizing Your Projects

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 5/25/2013

When you are managing many projects at once, it is important to prioritize the projects. By setting priorities, you can ensure your projects are successful and that they get done on time. Here are some tips to help you in prioritizing your projects and the tasks you have to complete.

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    A Thousand Things Happening at Once...

    When managing projects, it is easy to become overwhelmed - especially when you are managing multiple projects at once. The most important part of maintaining all of them simultaneously is to look at the projects, determine which ones are the most important, and assign a priority to each task of each project. How do you determine the most important project? That's where the tips below come in.

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    Business or Personal?

    The first question to ask yourself when managing multiple projects is "Who is this project for?" Sometimes, in addition to work projects we manage personal projects in addition to work responsibilities. Freelancers manage both personal and client projects all the time.

    Intuition would have you believe that it is best to work on any work-related projects first, before tackling any personal projects. This is sometimes true, but before you decide, it is important that you ask yourself about the goals involved in your personal projects. Some time management experts recommend that you spend an hour a day, at the start of your work day, on projects that move personal goals forward so that your goals don't dissipate over time.

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    Is it Urgent or Is It Important?

    picture Do you feel like you're constantly putting out fires when it comes to managing your projects? If you do, it might be time for you to analyze things using the urgent important matrix. Across the top are "urgent and important," and "urgent but not important" projects and project tasks. The bottom part of the matrix has (from left to right) "not urgent, but important" and "not urgent and not important tasks."

    Now, the reason you may feel as though you're constantly working to put out fires is that you have been focusing in the "urgent but not important" quadrant of the urgent-important matrix. This is the fastest way to get burnout at your job. Other times, those not urgent and not important tasks and projects (such as checking your Facebook page) often tend to get our immediate attention. You should really focus on "urgent and important tasks" as well as "not urgent but important tasks" each day. Take a look now at the projects you and your company are working on.

    • Are any of those "not urgent and not important?" Eliminate those if you can--if you can't, they receive the lowest priority.
    • Are there projects that are "important but not urgent" that are receiving attention? Those should receive attention at least once a day.
    • "Urgent but not important" projects should be delegated, if possible, to those for whom the project is important.
    • And of course, "urgent and important" projects are those you work on now.
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    Prioritizing Projects

    • Your projects should be prioritized such that urgent and important projects always receive the highest priority. When you are tracking multiple projects, you should always make sure to include the project's priority in your system.
    • Important but not urgent projects should come next in priority.
    • Urgent but not important projects--hopefully you don't have many--can be delegated or postponed.
    • Not urgent and not important projects shouldn't even be initiated, but if they have, then they receive the lowest priority.

    You should now be able to easily understand prioritizing projects and how to manage multiple projects as well as what tasks your team members should be working on at any given time.