Task Prioritization and The Dangers of Swooping

Seagulls are opportunists. If you spill fries on a beach, then you can count on a white-winged, screeching swarm descending within moments.


When it comes to task prioritization, this goes for your team members as well. When you give them a non-prioritized list of tasks to accomplish, your team will simply swoop in and achieve what they can, often focusing on the easiest accomplishments first. In many cases, this is how people are taught to approach work when there is no clear priority – clear away the easy things, the low-hanging fruit, and then the rest of it looks easier. Less daunting.

Not a bad approach, but…

It isn’t a bad approach to work – it makes a large checklist more manageable and makes your teammates feel more productive which spirals positively into increased overall productivity.

However, this “swooping” in for the easiest tasks can be counterproductive if there is any sort of urgency to the tasks that aren’t immediately snatched up.


Because of this, as easy as it may be to just say, “here’s a list of 10 things, go and do them,” you’re going to eventually have a problem.

What goes wrong

What ultimately happens is you end up with a day rolling along where only five, for example, of those ten things get done. With today’s new tasks:

  • Your teammate now has 15 tasks to complete
  • The most important tasks from the previous day may not have been completed
  • The most important of today’s tasks will almost certainly not be completed

You, of course, will be upset because the things that you needed them to accomplish didn’t get done. But if you didn’t prioritize, then it isn’t entirely their fault. And if you did not communicate that, and proceed to get angry, they will, whether they show it or not, be angry with you as well. After all, they didn’t know – they can’t read your mind.

Seagulls You Can Talk To

Your team will, typically, follow your instructions. Both of you, no matter your role in the team, have a vested interest in the team’s success. Because of this, getting them onto the same page as you shouldn’t take much effort.

Here’s how we handle this, for example:

  1. I sit down with members of my teams individually, one-on-one
  2. We talk about their lists of tasks
  3. We pull everything up in Asana and review each task one-by-one
  4. During the review, my teammate discusses where each task stands
  5. I give direction, based on all information available, on which tasks have priority

It is important to note here that the priority of items, as you’re likely aware, can change at the drop of a hat. At the top level, with a broader perspective over each of the elements of the business, your needs can change daily based on the status of:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Overall financial circumstance

Because of this, it’s important that I sit down and discuss these details with my teammates and make certain that we’re on the same page.

Communication is Key

Remember that the people on your team are trying to do their best — they’re trying to do their jobs. If you end up getting upset about them doing their jobs to the best of their ability with what tools they’re given, then they end up getting upset, and now everybody’s upset and no work is getting done.

Don’t let that happen to you. Help your people do the job so they can help you. Communicate and prioritize. Good luck!