Work Prioritization Part 1:  Identifying Types of Work

Work Prioritization Part 1: Identifying Types of Work

July 29, 2015
Business Skills

By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

I always enjoy hearing from RDBA members, and in a recent conversation with a corporate dietitian, she mentioned the struggles of work prioritization. Dietitians are wired to check things off a list each day, and in many RD roles, you can accomplish this task. But in retail, it’s simply not possible. You can enter the office in the morning with a clear plan and leave that day having accomplished nothing on your original list due to new prioritizes or challenges that arise.

So what’s the retail RD to do? Work prioritization is crucially important for dietitians in this space as they are meeting the needs of internal and external clients, covering all topics of nutrition, managing teams, and setting strategies for nutrition services and programs.

Work prioritization begins with an assessment of the type of work you’re currently doing. Many times, 80% of the work we do contributes to less than 20% of overall value to the company. It’s urgent, but not always important. It’s easy to tick off the “to do” list, so often it gets prioritized over more valuable work or bigger projects. Consider these four types of work:

  1. Important and urgent. These are crises, pressing problems, or deadlines that are due very soon. These tasks are essential to the functioning of the company. This category of work must be done ahead of all other tasks.
  2. Important but not urgent. Work that falls into this category includes planning, considering new opportunities, relationship building, and prevention activities. These are tasks which are typically included in your job objectives and are projects of medium to long duration. While they lack urgency, it’s essential to allocate regular chunks of time to these activities to ensure they meet preset deadlines and that you fulfill your job role.  
  3. Urgent but not important. E-mails, some calls, some meetings, and some reports fall into this category. These tasks threaten to cause a negative impact or disruption if they are not acted upon immediately. At the same time, they made be outside of your job scope and may not contribute much value to your overall programs, goals, and objectives. Sometimes the urgency of these tasks is defined by someone else, whose priorities may not align with yours. 
  4. Not important, not urgent. Some email and calls as well as busy work and pleasant company activities are in this category. These tasks are not essential to your job nor do they have any noticeable impact on your business.  

As a starting point to strengthening your work prioritization skills, take the next week to keep a log of your workload. Track how long various projects take and assign them to one of the four categories above. Track the number of times you’re interrupted by calls, someone stopping by your desk to socialize, or an email alert. At the end of the week, tally the results and assign percentages to where you are spending your time based on the four categories of work above.

Then come back next week to the RDBA e-newsletter for Part 2 in this series, focused on tips for shifting priorities to important work and focusing on projects that matter to the company and position you as a highly effective contributor.

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