Getting It Done:  Setting Priorities

© Cheryl Malandrinos- All Rights Reserved


It’s that time of year again. The girls are getting ready to head back to school and I eagerly anticipate dedicating more time to my writing. I could easily become overwhelmed with all I want to do. But I won’t.

Why? Because I’m going to set my priorities.

How do you set priorities? Where do you get started? And how will setting priorities make you more productive? Let’s find out.


The To-do List

It all starts here. You can’t possibly set priorities without knowing what you have on your plate. Now is the perfect time to update your to-do list or to start one. 

Write down everything you have to accomplish this week, no matter how small. 


Sorting through the Mess 

Once you have your list written out, you need to consider how to rearrange it so that you can meet your deadlines and goals. 

An easy way to set priorities is from the deadlines provided by your clients. Projects with the closest due date are a top priority versus projects that are weeks out. 

Keep in mind, however, that existing clients may take precedence over new clients. 

Why? A repeat client is valuable and you should do your best to meet his requirements. On the flip side, when you’re dealing with a new client you’ll risk losing future business if you don’t complete the work on time. Also, is everything on your list a paying project or are any of them pro-bono? I haven’t met many writers who don’t provide a free article or two for a worthy cause, but your paying clients come first or you won’t be seeing repeat business. Be mindful of everything you have to do and don’t over commit. 

If you have a book contract, then you’ll use that deadline to judge what you need to accomplish on a weekly basis. In the absence of a contract, decide how much time you’ll dedicate to any or all works in progress this week. The important thing to remember is that combining S.M.A.R.T. goals with setting priorities will likely get you to the finish line a lot faster than flying by the seat of your pants. 

An essential consideration when setting priorities is the impact a to-do item will have on your future. Is this a one-time project or could this project mean bigger and better things for your writing career down the road? How important this is to your career will determine whether it’s high or low priority.


Recurring items – Use the same date regularly. 

In the case of a task appearing regularly on your schedule, choose a day of the week or the same date each month to tackle it. That way it becomes part of your regular schedule and is easy to prioritize. 

Make sure you include this on your daily task list where applicable. 


My List is Sorted. Now What? 

You’ve considered deadlines, set S.M.A.R.T. goals, and contemplated how each project might impact the future; now, go through your entire list and mark these to-do items 1 through 4 (or end) from the highest priority (1) to the lowest (4). Then begin working on items you’ve deemed highest priority and work down, crossing them off the list as you complete them to give you a feeling of accomplishment. 

Setting priorities is an important step toward increased productivity. When coupled with setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and learning to say "no" to over commitment, you’re that much closer to a successful writing career.



About the Author: Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelancer who specializes in time management and organization for writers. She has also written articles on everyday life in the 1800’s, gardening, parenting, and women’s health issues. Cheryl is also a virtual book tour coordinator for Pump Up Your Book Promotion. You can find out more about Cheryl by visiting her website at 






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