Feb 22, 2023

Learn how to prioritize tasks at work through coaching

The new catch-all phrase when someone checks in with anyone is “I’m busy.” Moreover, it seems we all get busier every year and yet, do we achieve more? Rather than submitting to the fashion of being busy, what if you learned how to prioritize tasks at work to simply be more productive? As we’ll see, coaching is one of the most powerful ways to make this happen.

Coaches guide you to use the best task prioritization method

How often do you find yourself procrastinating? Perhaps you’re overwhelmed by the sheer number of tasks you have to get through. Alternatively, you simply could be getting lost in distractions. After all, distractions are fun especially when we’re fighting fires. Our adrenalin goes up, we’re at the center of attention and we might even save the day and be seen as the new hero. 

To make matters worse, our brains are designed to go for instant gratification rather than long-term benefits. Essentially, we want things now. According to this ScientificAmerican article on Immediate Gratification, it seems that we generally struggle to imagine future benefits. This lack of clarity makes us focus on immediate tasks without necessarily giving priority tasks their proper attention. 

One of the best, and simplest, tools for prioritizing time-sensitive activities is the Eisenhower Matrix.  It is also referred to as the Covey Matrix because Stephen R. Covey refers to it in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Either way, it’s a useful grid to help you differentiate between urgent tasks and those that are important but not urgent. Often, our minds get so focused on doing tasks that we forget to take timing into account. That’s when we then risk missing a due date. 
While learning how to prioritize tasks at work is made possible with the use of a matrix or other tools, we still need to overcome our addiction to instant gratification. In fact, without coaching, the chances are that you’ll only use your new tool for a short period of time. You’ll then slip back into old habits. 

Coaches encourage you with how to prioritize tasks at work

  • Critically analyze the list of all your tasks. A coach will challenge your top priority item and how you defined it. As we mentioned in our blog on thinking critically, the aim is to enable you to develop the insight to know when you’re jumping too quickly to conclusions. That’s when you waste time fixing the wrong problem. 
  • Prioritize tasks based on business and individual needs. Any team member gets demotivated if they can’t see how they fit into the big picture. It’s the same with all of us. So, a coach will allow you to reconnect with what motivates you in this role and with this team. 
  • Stay focused. Once we’ve determined our highest priority, we also need to learn to manage distractions. Again, this is about instilling good habits while training our “focus” muscle.

Getting intentional with coaching

The good news is that learning how to prioritize tasks at work isn’t impossible. Not only can we get better at imagining a future with our tasks completed but we can also tie our project management goals to our personal goals. For example, how can you link this project and your next promotion? 

Depending on your leadership style, you might also prefer some activities, such as 1:1s, over others, such as defining customer strategy. Moreover, as this HBR article on Time Management explains, an individual leader also needs awareness and flexibility. Organizational skills aren’t enough when learning how to prioritize tasks as work. 

Leadership development coaching can guide your awareness so you can understand how you value time and how you relate to it. Deep down we all have beliefs about time that impact our approach to prioritized work. For example, how to prioritize tasks at work is as much about planning as it is about leveraging your natural flow of energy throughout the day. 

Another important way that personalized and professional coaching supports your effectiveness is by understanding your intrinsic motivation. We all procrastinate at some point during our lives but are you truly aware of what drives those moments? 

Furthermore, what do you believe about your daily tasks? If you tell yourself repeatedly that you don’t have the time then you never will. Alternatively, if you tell yourself that your priority list matches your strengths perfectly, there’s a good chance you’ll create the right mindset to just get going.

Coaching sessions can further provide the right environment when exploring how to prioritize tasks at work 

  • Nurture a growth mindset. There’s always the temptation to prioritize tasks based on what’s easy. Nevertheless, someone with an innate belief in developing their skills will prioritize tasks that make them grow. Consequently, they move onwards and upwards.
  • Reflective coaching conversation. With the right questions and reflective exercises, a leadership or language coach challenges you to inspect the level of importance you apply to everything you do. The aim is to be intentional not just in our actions but also in our language. Otherwise, we lose control and life manages us instead. 
  • Positive reinforcement. Changing habits, and trying out new approaches, to meet deadlines isn’t always easy. Why not help yourself and work with a coach who will encourage and reward you appropriately along the way?

How leaders can apply a coaching model to further inspire their team members

With a coaching approach, you can also guide your team members to be more effective in applying how to prioritize tasks at work. As we mentioned in one of our previous blogs on using a coaching style as a management tool, creating a positive dialogue with open questions encourages others to practice self-reflection.  

Furthermore, if you set a vision that paints a clear picture of the future, people will be more motivated to let go of instant gratification. In essence, the future will look more appealing. 

No matter what type of coaching you experience, you will develop your self-awareness and ability to use skilled inquiry to develop others.

First, with your coach and then with your team, you’ll be able to practice the core skills to drive effectiveness

  • Reflection. As you become more aware of your beliefs and approach to time, you can better guide others to also reflect. Overall, you’ll become more astute at asking the right questions to allow your team to prioritize correctly.  
  • Critical thinking. As you practice pausing and problem-solving without jumping to conclusions, planning and tracking will become more natural. As a result, those around you will also be more measured and less blinded by firefighting. 
  • Flexibility. With your coach, you’ll become more comfortable with uncertainty and changing situations which, in turn, will make you a more grounded and balanced leader.

Reclaiming your life through greater effectiveness

Learning how to prioritize tasks at work isn’t just a matter of applying a tool. You also need to adapt to life’s changing needs and situations while having the awareness of how your beliefs drive you. 

You can’t do this without a leadership coach because it’s very hard for any of us to step out of our beliefs without a guide. Moreover, they’ll help you discover your innate motivations so you can prioritize your tasks to meet both your higher goals as well as those around you. As you do, you’ll gain self-awareness and a deeper belief in yourself and in time. 

And as psychiatrist M. Scott Peck puts it, “Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”


Career, Coaching, L&D, Leadership, People, Skills-Based Coaching

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