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How do you prioritize your work? Strategies & interview tips

How do you prioritize your work? Learn effective strategies that will stand out when applying for a job.

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Whether you’re an employee looking for a new job or a potential employer wanting to optimize their hiring process, time management skills are essential to work qualities that contribute to the success of any organization. Therefore, it is likely that at least one interview question is related to time management during an interview. But what exactly is time management? How do you respond to "how do you prioritize your work?" And what should a potential employer look for when job seekers react to this type of question? Today, we’re going to be answering these questions so you can effectively respond to employers. On the other hand, these answers will also help you hire productive team members who get things done on time and meet deadlines without feeling overwhelmed. Therefore, keep reading for more information. 

Effective strategies for prioritizing your work 

Simply put, time management is prioritizing your daily tasks to optimize your workflow to meet deadlines, especially if you work from home. It also means that you ensure you have enough time to complete your task list without leaving things until the last minute. Essentially, you can curb procrastination by having practical time management skills, maximizing your workday, and having a healthy work-life balance. Therefore, if you want to begin prioritizing your work, here are some effective strategies. 

  1. Create a master list of all your essential tasks. 

One of the most fundamental strategies in time management is creating a task list. Your task list reduces the opportunity that you miss essential to-dos throughout the day. It can also serve as a rewards system as you check your daily work responsibilities. Your master list can include anything from scheduled calls, meetings, email correspondence, mini-projects, and equivalent deadlines. 

  1. Determine what is high priority vs. low priority 

Once you have your daily assignment list, you must determine the priority of your tasks. You can then organize your list of to-dos by their importance by deciding which tasks are high priority vs. low priority based on how time-sensitive they are. That way, you can finish your important tasks before moving on to functions that aren't as urgent later on. 

  1. Estimate the amount of time it will take to complete your assignments relative to their due date 

Further, another one of the most effective prioritization techniques that work hand-in-hand with the first two methods is estimating the amount of time each task will take relative to its due date. You can break down more significant assignments into more minor, more achievable daily responsibilities. This is great for large project management obligations that have numerous deadlines and deadlines months down the line. As a result, you'll feel less inclined to tap into your procrastination habits by leaving everything until the last minute. 

  1. Reevaluate your priority list 

Moreover, as an employee, you should be prepared for urgent tasks to come up unexpectedly that will ultimately require you to change your priority list. Therefore, you will need to reevaluate your priority list by problem-solving under changing circumstances to ensure you can still meet deadlines. 

  1. Stay on top of communication. 

Communication with co-workers is key to task management and productive teamwork. Therefore, you must manage your workflow by constantly communicating with your team members. This can include asking for help, strategizing new methods to complete tasks more efficiently, making suggestions, and anything else you deem appropriate for a work setting. 

  1. Avoid working on more than one task at a time. 

The final prioritization technique that will help you maximize your time management is staying focused on the task at hand. By concentrating on one task at a time, you can avoid distractions that come along with other responsibilities. For example, if you are working on organizing spreadsheets for an upcoming deadline, then avoid checking your emails, going on your phone, planning strategies for other projectors, and anything else that pulls you away from completing the assignment you are working on. 

Why do employers ask how you prioritize your work?

Moreover, now that you have a better understanding of how to prioritize work, you may be wondering why employers even ask job seekers the question, “how do you prioritize your work?” And the answer to this question is because it shows them your ability to manage your time, remain organized, and distinguish between necessary tasks and urgent assignments. Remember, effective time management increases the productivity of a work team, which directly influences a company's ability to work cohesively together to achieve goals. 

On the other hand, it also shows employers that you value your personal life. Hence, you can perform efficiently without sacrificing the quality of your work. All in all, time management is an asset, which is why employers are always on the lookout for employees who value company time rather than procrastinate. Therefore, employers will be more drawn to you in the hiring process by proving you have the knowledge and skills to complete top priorities by the end of the day. 

Examples of "how do you prioritize your work?" interview questions. 

Now that you know what it takes to strategize your time management, here are some common interview questions similar to "how do you prioritize your work?" so you can prepare for your following job interview. 

  1. Tell us about how you schedule your day. 

If your interviewer poses this question, concentrate on the specific techniques you use to manage your daily tasks. This can include your to-do list, how you determine which assignments need to be completed first, and how you rank your responsibilities in terms of urgency. Ultimately, this indicates to potential employers how you remain organized. 

  1. Discuss how you set deadlines for yourself 

Employers want to make sure you’ll be able to complete your assignments on time. Therefore, you'll want to focus on letting employers know the details of how you determine importance and urgency and what you do to set deadlines afterward. For example, do you set daily deadlines for yourself? Do you confirm deadlines with team members and then strategize how you tackle completing these assignments after that? How you answer will indicate that you care about company objectives. 


  1. How do you deal with last-minute schedule changes?

Last-minute changes and urgent responsibilities are bound to happen once in a while. Therefore, employers want to see that you can shift your focus efficiently without becoming overwhelmed. With this question, you'll want to focus on how you adapt and reorganize your adapted task list. Thus, showing employers that you are confident in your ability to take the initiative in your job and help out when you can. 

  1. How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance? 

The last way an employer can pose a time management question is by asking you how you maintain a healthy personal life outside of your job obligations. Therefore, you should concentrate on how you set realistic expectations for your daily routine. For example, let employers know that because you can evaluate what is required to finish a project correctly, as well as the timeline to complete it, you can manage your daily schedule to optimize your eight-hour shift. And, by doing so, you know when to ask for an extension if needed. Nonetheless, setting realistic goals for your daily tasks and remaining focused on finishing as much as you can in one shift indicates that you understand the significance of productivity while maintaining a personal life. 

How to answer “How do you prioritize your work?” in an interview 

Lastly, let's look at some example responses to the questions noted above. Remember to craft a response that highlights your skills and personal time management strategies for a more accurate answer. 

  1. “As soon as I arrive at work, I take note of my assignments that need to be completed by the end of the day. I then record them in order of the highest to lowest priority. This helps ensure that my workflow is organized for the day while allowing me to stay on track to meet deadlines.”
  2. "I always make an effort to speak directly with my co-workers to ensure a shared expectation on when assignments are due. I like to break large assignments into smaller, achievable tasks to ensure I do not leave things until the last minute. Generally speaking, I will give myself at least a day or two before the actual due date to make revisions before handing in my work."
  3. "Although my daily schedule allows me to stay on track with my task list, I know that last-minute changes may occur. Therefore, by remaining organized and ahead of task due dates, I always save a little extra time if changes need to be made."
  4. "To maintain a healthy balance, I always communicate with my co-workers if I need more time on an assignment. This allows me to manage my workload without getting overwhelmed.”
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