Prevent Workload Overload with Project Prioritization Strategies

23 Sep, 2015 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: Make sure your priorities are structured around project completion.

We've all been in this situation before: Your task list is overflowing, and new requests keep pouring in. Your boss wants even more from you, but if you keep committing yourself to additional projects, you're bound to fail. It's the classic CAD management conundrum.

So, the question becomes: How do you prioritize your workload so that you address the most important tasks first, while pushing the noncritical tasks to the bottom of the list — and determining which items don't merit any of your time at all? In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll share some of the methods I use to prioritize workloads with my clients, in hopes that they will work for you as well. Here goes.

It All Comes Down to Deadlines

The first step is to realize that what you really manage are deadlines.

Some CAD managers say they manage software, plotters, users, and training, but in reality, the only reason to do any of that is to complete projects. As we all know, projects have deadlines that must be met, so managing to meet deadlines is of paramount importance. Don't believe me? Just try missing a deadline and see what happens.

To keep deadlines at the forefront of my mind, I sort all my tasks in the context of how they support project execution and deadlines. By doing so, I can immediately filter between tasks that are necessary, those with lower priority, and those that would be nice, but aren't essential. I then think about each task in terms of when it must be done and how much effort it will take me to complete it. When you approach tasking in this way, priorities are much easier to establish and your work schedule falls into place.

Collect the Data

Before you can sort or prioritize tasks, you must collect the task data and track it. I start by writing everything in a spiral notebook while I'm walking around the office and checking in with users, then I input the tasks into my trusty spreadsheet (more on that later) when I get back to my desk. I typically go through this process a couple of times per day, but I can always increase the frequency if needed.

A spiral notebook is easy to carry, hard to lose, and keeps your notes in chronological order.
A spiral notebook is easy to carry, hard to lose, and keeps your notes in chronological order.

Whenever someone makes a request, I jot it down and ask a few follow-up questions. Be sure to ask the following:

  • Is a project dependent on the completion of this task? If yes, what is the deadline for this project? If no, when would the work need to be done?


  • What data do we have to support the work? Are there example files, specs, standards, or other information that indicate the magnitude of the problem?


  • If it's not project-related, what is the justification for this task? Is it simply something users would like to have? Has it been requested by a manager, or by the marketing or sales department? Does it lay the infrastructure for future projects? Be sure to find out who is the requesting/responsible party that will coordinate the work with you, so you can get more details as needed.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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