When you set priorities, there are often outside factors involved. You may need help or resources in order to get tasks completed or move them forward. These outside factors may influence the level of priority that you give to certain tasks, so they need to be taken into account.

For example, imagine that you’re an independent consultant. You have one job due in two days and one job due in one week. It makes sense to make the two-days job your first priority. But for the one-week job, you need the client’s approval on something before you can move forward. In this case, you may want to make getting that client’s approval a higher priority than the two-day job.

Or imagine that there’s one part of the job where you need help. You have to hire an assistant to complete a specialized task. Since it takes time for you to assign this task to the assistant and then wait for the deliverables, you should bump this task up on your list of things to do.
Adjusting Your Priorities

Before prioritizing your list of things to do, you should consider what kinds of outside help you need for each and take this into account. You can then move your priorities accordingly.

If it helps, write down the reason why a certain item is moved to the top of the list. Write down the action you’re waiting for (response from the client, deliverable from your hired help) and a note to move the item back down the list when this step is completed.
Breaking Down Each Step

One simple way to handle this is to take each job and break it down into smaller steps. For example, sending the deliverables for the client’s approval would be a task and be assigned a deadline, just like any other job. So, while the job’s deadline is two weeks, the deadline for getting the client’s approval might be three days.

For each job, sit down and identify any outside help you need and break the job up into phases. Then, set a deadline for each phase in addition to the overall job itself. Deadlines might include:

? Invoicing clients
? Waiting for approval
? Important communications that need to be made
? Resources that need to be gathered
? Research that needs to be done before you can start (for example, what software program to buy)

If you don’t take these factors into account and include them in your plan, you may be stuck with having to do them at the last minute. Since outside factors are to some extent out of your control, this can push your overall deadline back and cause problems. For this reason, it’s important to be flexible with your list of things to do and move priorities when necessary.

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