Overwhelmed? 4 emergency steps to prioritise tasks, fast

by Leadership, Mental health, Planning

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by conflicting priorities (which doesn’t happen that often) I use the technique below. I recently shared it with a client who had moved into overload and they found it helpful, so my offer is to perhaps file it as a resource for the next time you’re in that same uncomfortable space.

Step 1

Make a monster list of all your tasks: big / small / trivial. Split them into the following categories:

  • people
  • sales
  • production
  • financial

If nothing else, this will make you feel vital.

Step 2

Buy some mini Post-it notes and gaffer tape, and stick the tape right down the middle and across the centre of your office door.

Step 3

Write each task on a Post-it note and stick it in one of the quadrants on the back of your door under the most relevant heading:

urgent but not important                               important and urgent


not urgent and not important                        important but not urgent

Step 4

Now it’s easier to allocate the tasks to your team. As you do so make sure that each task is SPECIFIC AND TIME-BOUND. When briefing a team member always ask HOW WILL I KNOW WHEN YOU HAVE COMPLETED THIS TASK? (This tells you whether they have fully grasped the task and its importance.)

Finally, make sure your team knows you are EXCEPTION REPORTING — in other words, you are assuming the task will be completed on time unless you are advised otherwise by the team member.

I know it’s clunky but it really works. There is a digital version but to be honest Post-it notes and markers always work far better for me. Good luck.


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JJF 10

“Assume the task will be completed on time unless you are advised otherwise”

JJF, Fine Company MD
Author: Jonathan Fine