How to prioritize tasks?

I am developing my productivity system. The requirements for the system are: It is always reachable, extremely simple and have focus on reducing the stress. I am sure that any complicated system destroys my productivity or my interest to the system .. And that has happened several times. My productivity system is on the background of this blog. It is one reason, if not main reason, why I have started my productivity blog. In this post I will cover how to prioritize tasks – My way – the BPS way.

How to prioritize tasks? – My way

In my system the tasks that cause me stress will get highest priority and I will do them first. In life there is only one important thing and that is YOU. Everything you do, should focus on you. That is why I have chosen to work my tasks only based on the fact how much they worry me. In other words how much they cause me stress and anxiety. The tasks I keep in my head the most I will do first. There is no other key to feel well than to remove worries from your shoulders. Stress is your enemy.

In life there is only one important thing and that is YOU.

Now you think that I am extremely selfish. I am not. Vice versa. Most of my life I have lived for others. My work has always been work for others and I have spent most of my career to help others and my employer. My spare time has fully been dedicated to others. My family and my community. My point is that if you don’t take care of you first you will burn out. You are number one. Then the others. If you burn out who will then take care of the others? Who will take care of your family? I have seen burn out to happen to some people and there is no short way back. Don’t let it happen.

 Take care yourself first. Then you can help others.


Do you know the safety instruction in airplanes? It says that put the mask first on you and then on your children. Same idea. Take care yourself first. Then you can help others.


What about deadlines? They should go first right?

I don’t know about you, but for me a deadline causes worries and stress. Even the awareness of  the deadline makes me feel a bit stressed. Stress  supports my prioritization. Closer the deadline comes, more stressed I am and upper the task should be on my list.

In general I don’t like deadlines. Deadlines are reason for procrastination. The deadline in the future prevents you to do the task today. Because your mind is set for the deadline. Then on the last evening you will do it. Yes. I know and understand deadlines are mostly set by other factors than you and that is life. Don’t set deadlines for you. It wont help.

What if I have worked all my worries and I have only important, but not really worrying or stressful tasks in my list. What I should then prioritize?

I have struggled with this question myself. How to know what task is really important? The fact is that most of the tasks you do, you could left undone. If you are working for others, there should be only one priority and that is – if your customer wants your task and is willing to pay the price, you should do it.

If you don’t have the real customers. You can play with the idea. When you get the request for work and you are doubtful is it really needed. Ask the question from your internal customer. How much you need it? How much you would be willing to pay for it? Your internal customer will laugh first. Then push him a bit. And you will get answer.

What about tasks that do not have an Internal or external customers?

I have used two things. If task is visible and it has effect.

How to prioritize tasks? – Visibility

I believe that non visible things are not worth doing. If your task does not bring visible results. It is empty task.

I am often challenged by technical people. They say that not all work is visible if you do technical improvements. If you improve stability or performance of the system. It is not visible, they claim. That is completely untrue. If that is the case, why you do it? Stability and performance are always visible to the user. If they are not, then the task is not needed or stability or performance is not increased enough and again, the work has been unnecessary.

All technical tasks should be visible as well. If you think they are not visible. Don’t do them. Or give another change with effect.

How to prioritize tasks? – Effect

When thinking how important is your task. Ask what will happen if I do this? Ask what will happen if I don’t do it? If answer is nothing. Drop the task right away. Drop it. Forget it.

If the answer is – it will bring more customers. It will cut time I use for non important tasks or even better if it will bring more money or make your life easier. There is the effect. Everything you do – needs to have an effect.

Tasks that do not have visibility or effect should be dropped. Remove the task from your task list, backlog, backburner or whatever you call it.

In software development we spend a huge amount of time to tasks that do not have any meaning. Software business is business where it is extremely easy to stay in comfort zone and hide behind mystical technical improvements and tunings. I first called it as placebo work, but even the placebos have effect. If you do placebo work, it has no effect – it is just WASTE.

We do waste because we search safety. That is natural. There are no good or bad people. There are only good and bad decisions and choices. 80 percent of the tasks could be left undone if we would be able to select wisely (Pareto Principle). It would make our work more significant and we would be more motivated. That is why it is extremely important to challenge everything you do.

I would challenge everyone to ask – is the task visible and does it have effect? If you have team of best experts, you cannot be expert above them and it can be difficult to decide what is important. But you can ask questions. Is the task visible? Do you see the results? Does the task have effect? Can you feel the effect?

So shortly. My priority factors: How worried and stressed you are about the task? How visible it will be? What will happen if you do it or don’t do it?

That is the start of my productivity system. If you like it or would like to follow how it develops. Follow me on Twitter or Subscribe to my newsletter.. I wont spam you. Only 1-2 emails per month.

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