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If you have multiple things to tackle within a period of time, for example one day/week/month, would you start from the easiest one or the hardest one?

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Personal or professional things? –  Belisama May 22 '12 at 10:10

6 Answers 6

The way taught to me on various priority management courses took into account a variety of aspects including:

  • Urgency/Deadline

If it is due tomorrow, you'd best do it now. This value goes up as you get closer to that deadline.

  • Age

It is often easier to tackle a problem when it is new, and the description is fresh in your mind, so rather than let even unimportant ones just keep sitting in your tray waiting to be done, this value also goes up over time.

  • Ease

If you have some simple tasks, it can be rewarding to just get them completed and off your to-do list, so easy tasks can get a high value

You may want to add other categories as well, but I find these three give me a good indication of the actions I should take today and tomorrow, in a system flexible enough to cope with new tasks or priorities.

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If I have multiple tasks that need to be worked on at the same time, I discuss that with my boss and the stakeholders and we determine the actual priority order I will work them in. There can never be two number 1 priorities and don't ever agreeto such a thing (one client tried to give us 32 number one priorities out of a list of 33, we sent the list back until they did it right). Priority order of tasks is never the call of the developer - this is for stakeholders to decide. If you have multiple stakeholders (as I do) sometimes you have to get a third party invovled (Our VP in my case) to referee.

Since I work production issues as well as development, the PM and I revisit the priority list at least daily and sometimes much more often than that. Whenever something drops down the priority list, the pertinent people must be informed as to when I will get to it and why I am no longer working on it. Making sure management and clients know as soon as possible if priorities change is critical.

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I would prefer starting with the easier one and reduce the count but not in an increasing order of difficulty. I would put the tasks into different categories/ levels and consider any two of them at a time to shuffle my work, so that it is not monotonous. These steps might be of help further.

  1. Set milestone deadlines and respect them. Remember a deadline means you are dead at the line.
  2. Consider the time required as per your capability and schedule time accordingly.
  3. Document your daily agenda and add logs regularly.

Inspiration and zeal is the tonic to get the things in place. Do not miss anything which inspires you and adds zest. ALL THE BEST WITH YOUR TASKS!!

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Thats a pretty interesting question Baoye, thanks, it should benefit a lot of people and more importantly something we have to deal with more often than not. From personal experience, I think to start with your most appropriate approach might differ even at the timeline level i.e.whether its prioritization for a day or week or month. Its subjective, depends on your personal traits as well. I think its important to have a "free" and "thinking" mind to tackle the hardest tasks-as that impacts your efficiency and productivity levels. Its important to set a defined and short timeline to get done with the easy tasks and get them out of your way and then with an open and completely focussed mind take on the harder ones. As you might appreciate, too many things going on in our mind even at a subconscious level adversely imapcts your ability to focus on a single this. By this approach, you would most likely be able to address botth critical aspects-(a) get tasks done in defined timeline and (b) address your subconsious self and humane aspects to leverage a productive mind, focussed attention and deliver efficient results. hope it helps...

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It seems like you are asking for a personal experience, and the short answer to this question is "it depends". It depends on my overall workload, on the degree of my interest in tasks, on whether the boss keeps asking me to get it done, and so on and so forth.

But to approach the question formally, I'd divide all tasks into four parts:

  1. Important and urgent
  2. Important and not urgent
  3. Not important and urgent
  4. Not important and not urgent

And then I'd do important and urgent things first and then the rest depending on my own priorities. If there is an easy item to do that does not take much time, then I'd do that one first, but sometimes it is nice to "eat the frog" and do the hard and long one first just to clear it out of the way.

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Absolutely! In fact, since all competing tasks are due at the same time, by definition you have only one axis: important vs not important. If you have to drop something, don't feel bad about it. Just do your best! –  Riviera May 24 '12 at 16:44

In addition to the standard criteria (urgency, importance, ease, etc.), I also added dependencies. If I'm likely to get stuck or need information from someone else or the like, I start sooner so I can get what I need before the deadline.

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