How to Prioritize Your Work (And Avoid Burnout)

How will this post help me?

If you're struggling on how to approach time management or you're unsure how you should structure your workday, this is the post for you. We'll delve into prioritization best-practices and share actionable advice on how to organize your workload in an intentional manner. By the end, you'll have a firm grasp on how to strategically approach task prioritization.

Table of Contents

Identify the Fruit in Your Fruit Bowl

Determine Which Fruit You Should Eat First

Organize Your Fruit Bowl Every Day 

Free Task Prioritization Checklist

  1.  Identify your tasks at hand
    1. Lemons: Unfavorable tasks
    2. Apples: Big Tasks Done at Once
    3. Oranges: Large tasks to be broken into pieces
    4. Grapes: Small, quick tasks
  2. Determine What Order to Complete Your Tasks
    1. Determine when you are most energized 
    2. Determine when you are least distracted 
    3. Which type of task is most unfavorable to you
  3. Organize Your Tasks Every Day
    1. Dedicate time to task management 
    2. Order your tasks
    3. Time block your tasks in the appropriate order. 

When Life Gives You Lemons (and Apples, Grapes and Oranges)

Picture this: You sit down at your desk on Monday morning. Your inbox is crowded and your to-do list is full. You are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, imbalanced, and indecisive.  Where do you start? How do you make that decision?  

Prioritizing work can feel debilitating, time consuming, and draining, but it can be easier if you think of it like a bowl of fruit. Yep, you heard me right! I like to say that every day starts with a giant bowl of fruit. Some people may be better fit to start their day with grapes and others lemons or maybe even apples or oranges! Once you learn to identify your tasks as different kinds of fruit – and align them to your working style– you easily know where to start. 

1. Identify the tasks at Hand: Identify the Fruit in Your Bowl

Before we can dive into our strategy of which tasks to start with daily, we need to know all of our fruit options.  

🍋 Lemons: Lemons are sour.  They are not a fruit to sit down and enjoy a big bite of (to most people at least). 

Lemons are the tasks we will never want to do.  They are sour tasks.  Maybe you have to deliver tough feedback to a team member, find a tiny error in a large spreadsheet, or explain profitability concerns to leadership.  No matter which way we slice this task, it’s not going to be a ‘sweet’ one.

🍎Apples: Apples are big delicious snacks.  They are usually eaten in one sitting, assuming we aren’t cutting them up.  It’s not typical that you put an apple down while you’re eating it.  You give yourself a chunk of time where you can hold it and only eat the apple with nothing else going on. 

Apples are big tasks requiring a large amount of time and focus.  An apple is usually not something you want to do in multiple time blocks.  For example, it may be a report that you don’t want to lose momentum on and need a 2 hour time block.  Remember, you don’t put your apple down while you’re eating it.

🍊Oranges: These sticky citrus snacks are usually eaten in slices.  They are sweet to most and can be eaten piece by piece.   

Similarly to apples, oranges are large tasks.  However, this task can be broken up into many smaller pieces.  You can use multiple smaller time blocks to complete the larger task.

🍇Grapes: My personal favorite, grapes, are tiny little bite size snacks.  They are quick 1 bite treats where you can eat a bunch in one sitting.

Grapes are the tasks that take less than 15 minutes to complete.  These are the quick, easy tasks.  They require very little time and mental capacity and can be done in a chunk (a bunch for my punny readers!), or individually.

2. Determine What Order to Complete Your Tasks: Determine Which Fruit You Should Eat First

If you take one piece of advice away from this, it’s that you should always prioritize your least favorite fruit during the part of the day where you are 1. most energized and 2. least distracted.  

Let’s use Lunchtime Lisa as an example: 

Example 1:  Lunchtime Lisa

  • Who is Lunchtime Lisa?

    Lisa is a deep thinker and analyzer.  She likes spending hours analyzing market trends and reporting (apples & oranges).  Sending email replies and getting meetings scheduled is an area of growth for her.  These tasks (grapes) to her feel meaningless.  
  • What’s her fruit strategy?

    Lisa feels most energized after eating lunch.  The sun is shining perfectly on her desk, she had her delicious lunch, and she is feeling really motivated to hop in.  Lisa is going to ensure that she prioritizes her most challenging type of work – grapes – at this time. She doesn’t like these short, quick tasks, but with the most energy of the day she can power through and knock them out.

Not everyone is most energized in the afternoon, so here is another example:

Example 2: Coffee Charlie

  • Who is Coffee Charlie? 

    Charlie starts his day with a triple espresso.  As a project manager, Charlie has his hands in a lot of different tasks and communicates with many different clients.  He is jumping around from multiple communication platforms and calls.  Finding time to analyze data and address reporting concerns is pretty difficult for Charlie.
  • What’s his fruit strategy?

    Charlie is going to kick off his day, right after that espresso, with his reporting.  He can address all the small grapes after, but clearing his cognitive load of this lemon is going to be key for doing his best work.

3. Organize Your Tasks Every Day: Organize Your Fruit Bowl 

Now that you understand that the order in which you complete your tasks is the key to a ‘sweet’ day, here are the step by step ways you can use this everyday to help you:

  1. Dedicate time to task Management Some folks like to do this in the morning and others like to do it for the following day before signing off.

  2. Order your tasks Try to understand what kind of worker you are and when you are going to be able to get your best energy of the day. 

  3. Time block your tasks in the appropriate order. Google calendar focus time is a great hack for ensuring you complete the tasks during the optimal time of day and in the right order.  Another option is just re-ordering your to-do list and making your way down the list throughout the day.

You Got This! 

Just like fruit, not every day is perfect! There are going to be days where you can’t do your grapes when you want, you have too many lemons, or your orange has more pieces than you thought.  Just know that organizing your day just a bit can go a long way. Check out the Seer blog for more tips & tricks on how to approach prioritization and time-management. 


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Allison Worms
Allison Worms
Manager, Project Management