How to master the prioritization process

Reading time: about 7 min


  • Agile and project planning

Say you’re a UX designer at a busy tech company. On any given day, you’re responsible for attending meetings, updating progress in your task management system, talking to key stakeholders, brainstorming designs, building wireframes, and incorporating edits. And that’s aside from responding to emails and messages. At some point, you’ll have many tasks coming in and likely not enough time to get them all done. How do you maintain your boundaries (so you aren’t working too many hours and burning out) and still be considered a productive and valuable employee? 

The answer is simple: Prioritization.

Prioritizing tasks doesn’t come naturally to most of us, but we’re here to give you tools that can help. No matter how many urgent tasks you face, you can easily tackle them in the appropriate order. You’ll keep your cool and keep yourself in good standing with your team. The best part is that the techniques we’ll teach you in this article aren’t just for work. They can easily be used for any area of life, from school to housework. 

Why is prioritizing tasks essential?

Prioritization enables you to get the most important tasks done first. That way, even if you’ve overestimated how much time you have to complete everything, you’ll still be making the most significant impact. Without prioritizing, you may finish a handful of tasks that don’t make much of a difference. Prioritization helps you manage time wisely, allocating enough time to yourself and others to finish things before their deadlines. 

Beyond increasing productivity and ensuring there are enough resources to complete the most critical tasks, prioritizing tasks also leads to better decision-making and more significant stress reduction. That, in turn, reduces burnout and allows for a greater sense of accomplishment. Prioritization contributes to organizational success, personal effectiveness, and the ability to navigate complex challenges.

Steps to master the prioritization process

1. List your tasks

Listing your tasks is the heart of prioritization and the very first step. Don’t skip it or attempt to order anything just yet. Just list every single task that needs to be completed.

2. Determine daily, weekly, and monthly tasks

Now, take a look at the list you’ve just created. Determine the daily tasks first and put them on their own list. These are likely things like filling out timesheets, giving updates to stakeholders, responding to emails, etc. 

Next, take tasks that must be completed within the next month or longer and put them on their own list.

The tasks you should be left with are likely your upcoming project deadlines and should receive extra attention as you rank tasks in the next step.

3. Determine task importance

Determine which tasks are the absolute most urgent. These tasks could endanger your job if they aren’t completed in time. It’s important to note that urgent tasks are not always the same as important tasks. Urgent tasks are the highest priority because they must be completed soon. Important tasks don’t necessarily need to be completed as soon as possible but still need to get done. In the next section, we’ll explore several prioritizing methods to help you with this step.

4. Acknowledge what you can realistically get done 

Just because you can write it down doesn’t mean it will happen. You know your bandwidth best, and it’s fine to admit that not everything will be completed. That’s why we’re prioritizing: Because no one can do it all.

5. Delegate and communicate priorities

 If a stakeholder assumes you’re prioritizing a different task than the one you’re actually prioritizing, things will get messy. Keep everyone on the same page so no one’s surprised and you can work toward the same goals as a team.

6. Stick to your schedule

 It’s tempting to jump around and complete the easiest tasks first. Don’t do it. If unforeseen circumstances arise and you’re unable to keep working, you’ll have completed your less important tasks, which can sometimes mean missing an important deadline.

Prioritizing methods

Figuring out which tasks to prioritize can be difficult, so we’ve compiled a list of prioritization methods to help. Explore each resource to decide which may be the most helpful for you.

Eat the Frog 

The worst name, but one of the best prioritization models. 

The concept comes from a Mark Twain quote, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first."

In the context of time management, "eating the frog" refers to tackling your most challenging or important task early in the day, often as the first task you undertake. The idea is to prioritize and focus on the task that significantly impacts your goals or requires the most effort and concentration. It goes against our natural bias of completing our most straightforward tasks first, which often leads to us being too mentally drained at the end of the day to complete more taxing tasks.

Completing the most urgent and complicated task also gives you a great sense of accomplishment, making the rest of your to-do list look easy.

ABCDE Method 

The ABCDE Method involves categorizing tasks into different priority levels using letters A to E: 

A tasks (top priority): Tasks that are critical and have high importance. “A” tasks are typically related to significant goals and contribute directly to your long-term success.

B tasks (high priority): These tasks are important but may not be as critical as “A” tasks. Completing “B” tasks supports your overall objectives and goals.

C tasks (medium priority): “C” tasks would be nice to do but are less critical than “A” and “B” tasks.

D tasks (low priority): “D” tasks can be delegated to others. Delegating tasks that others can handle allows you to focus on higher-priority items.

E tasks (eliminate or postpone): “E” tasks can be eliminated or postponed without significant consequences.

MoSCoW prioritization 

The term "MoSCoW" is an acronym derived from four priority categories: Must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and won't-haves. 

This model is especially effective for project managers and is particularly useful when resources are limited, especially when there is a need to make strategic decisions about what to include in the project. 

Here’s the breakdown:

Must-haves: These are the non-negotiable requirements crucial for the project's success. Must-haves are essential and must be delivered for the project to succeed.

Should-haves: These requirements are important but not critical for the project's immediate success. Should-haves are considered necessary, and their inclusion enhances the project's overall value.

Could-haves: These requirements are desirable but unnecessary for the project's core functionality.

Won't-haves: These are explicitly identified as elements that will not be included in the current project iteration.

MoSCoW prioritization template (click to edit)

Impact effort matrix

This visual tool is used in project management and decision-making to assess and prioritize tasks or activities based on their impact and required effort. The matrix helps you identify which tasks are best to tackle first.

Impact effort matrix (click to edit)

Eisenhower matrix

Yup, that Eisenhower—Mr. Dwight D. himself. He invented a matrix that categorizes tasks into four quadrants: 

Urgent and important (quadrant I): These tasks require immediate attention and should be tackled right away. These are typically high-priority tasks that contribute to long-term goals.

Important but not urgent (quadrant II): Tasks in this quadrant are important for long-term goals but may not require immediate attention. Planning and strategic activities both fall into this category. Spending more time in quadrant II can prevent tasks from becoming urgent.

Urgent but not important (quadrant III): Tasks in this quadrant are urgent but not necessarily important for your long-term goals. They may be distractions or tasks that can be delegated to others. 

Not urgent and not important (quadrant IV): Tasks in this quadrant are neither urgent nor important. They are often time-wasters and should be minimized or eliminated from your schedule.

Eisenhower matrix (click to edit)

Bullseye diagram 

A bullseye diagram, also known as a radar chart or spider chart, is a graphical method of displaying multivariate data in a two-dimensional chart. It is called a "bullseye" because the chart typically resembles a series of concentric circles, similar to a target's or bullseye's rings.

In a bullseye diagram, each variable is represented by a spoke or axis extending from the center of the chart to the outer edge. The values of each variable are plotted along its respective axis, and the resulting data points are connected to form a polygon. This polygon shape provides a visual representation of the overall pattern or profile of the data.

Bullseye diagram (click to edit)

Prioritization makes or breaks your efficiency. Prioritizing tasks can feel like a waste of time, but you’ll find that getting organized makes your day infinitely more productive. You’ll feel less stressed, and you’ll likely see the quality of your work improve. 

Looking for more resources? Learn about prioritization matricies.

Go now

About Lucidspark

Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This cutting-edge digital canvas brings teams together to brainstorm, collaborate, and consolidate collective thinking into actionable next steps—all in real time. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit

Related articles

Bring your bright ideas to life.

Sign up free

or continue with

Sign in with GoogleSign inSign in with MicrosoftSign inSign in with SlackSign in

Get Started

  • Pricing
  • Individual
  • Team
  • Enterprise
  • Contact sales
PrivacyLegalCookie settingsCookie policy

© 2024 Lucid Software Inc.